Mission Space | X-Europe Startup Interview
Welcome to our X-Europe startup interview series. We have virtually sat down with a number of our founders from past cohorts to hear all about their solutions, vision for the future, and what made them tick during our X Europe programme. So whether you are a deep tech founder looking for startup support, an eagle-eyed investor, or simply interested in the possibilities that technology can bring to society, then we welcome you to take a read. Please meet Mission Space, a startup offering custom sensors for advanced space weather monitoring, delivering a global, real-time, data-driven predictive space weather system designed to be used as a decision support tool to detect and prevent space weather radiation risks.
Can you briefly explain what your solution is all about? What’s unique about it?
Many governments and federal agencies have listed space weather as one of the highest priority natural hazards and a major threat to their infrastructures and consequently to society. Historical evidence shows that many critical infrastructures in space and on the ground are vulnerable to the effects of space weather on Earth - geomagnetic storms, solar radiation, and radio blackouts. Society relies increasingly on the services these infrastructures provide, and the risks from extreme space weather should be assessed to ensure adequate preparedness in industry and society. Space weather occurs across national boundaries, and crises in one country can easily spill over to neighboring critical-infrastructure networks. Numerous space-weather impacts to the power grid, aviation, communication, and navigation systems have already been observed and documented. Power blackouts, damage to grid infrastructure, loss of long-distance radio communication, disruption to HF comms and high latitude routes, additional radiation doses at high altitude for crew and airline passengers, disruption to critical navigation systems, and losses of GNSS signals are just a few examples of impacts of space weather events that happen on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis. And with so many technologies being at stake, most of the existing space-weather satellite constellations have been launched more than 15 years ago and are operating well beyond their anticipated life spans. They are expected to fail before a replacement is launched. At Mission Space, we develop a satellite-based space weather nowcast and forecast system. We launch custom sensors for advanced space weather monitoring to ultimately deliver a data-driven API-integrated decision support tool to provide space weather nowcast and forecast, predict and warn of radiation hazards and deliver a new level of crucial data. We are unique in the way that we have both - assets in space and models on the ground, are able to act as a backup to currently existing systems, and are tailored to serve industry-specific needs in an actionable format.
What led you to start or join your company? What is the key motivation and mission behind the startup?
Our CTO and COO, Dmitry and Artem are father and son who have known each other their whole lives. Since early childhood, Dmitry has always inspired Artem by working in many space research structures and satellite engineering projects. Moreover, Dmitry was involved in the most significant space-weather-related projects within the last decade being the lead satellite engineer at Nuclear Physics Institute. Artem then met Ksenia at Suffolk University, where they studied together for over four years following a path in business administration careers. Graduating at the top percent of her class, Ksenia then decided to join the Mission Space team and bring her unique vision, ambitions, and enthusiasm to the company. Meanwhile, Alex has been a serial entrepreneur with a passion for a new space economy, as well as a family friend, and became a connecting link between all four founders who moved to Riga to form and found Mission Space.
At Mission Space, our core mission is to provide owners and operators of critical space-borne and ground-based infrastructure timely and accurate information to enable mitigation of the adverse impacts of space weather. With constant monitoring of the Sun and the space environment from a range of vantage areas, our high-quality scientific observations, scenario forecasts, and models in the domain of space weather will allow for the dissemination of reliable data to those needing the information on radiation hazards.
Our main goal is to address the problem posed by the European Commission in its summit on “Space Weather & Critical Infrastructures'' - the persistence of knowledge gaps related to space weather modeling and infrastructure vulnerabilities. We will use our knowledge, tools, and resources to contribute to the orientation prediction of a CME’s magnetic field before it reaches the Earth, allowing industry leaders to save valuable time that operators would need to implement the most appropriate actions to protect infrastructures.
What’s the biggest milestone your startup has achieved so far, and what has surprised you most on this journey?
Despite several challenges we had, our biggest milestone from a technical point of view was achieved this June of 2021 - we were able to launch our payload into the stratosphere to test our detectors in the field and obtain a preflight heritage. The test went smoothly and now the telemetric data obtained is being processed and analyzed on the ground for future distribution. From a business standpoint, our biggest achievement was our selection for participation in Luxembourg flagship Fit4Start program, where we are currently going through startup acceleration. Just last week we opened Mission Space in Luxembourg and are relocating part of our operations there.
What are your goals over the next 3, 6, and 12 months?
In the next 3 months, we plan to continue building our brand awareness, educating industries and investors about space weather problems, and staying involved within the new space community. In the next 6 months, we plan to close our seed round of investment and prepare our satellite for launch in the middle of 2022, while building our software and working on enhancing our API-integrated platform. We look forward to starting our beta tests as soon as we complete our system demonstration in space and continue to explore different markets and niches to target.
What advice would you give to an entrepreneur trying to pave his/her way in the Space tech landscape?
Start from a problem first - planning plays a crucial role in any business's success. Try to spend a significant amount of time on problem validation and need identification because if you can single out what pain you will be able to relieve with your product or service, half of your success is already in your pocket. Too many entrepreneurs, and in particular deep-tech startups, focus on building a product first, rather than validating if what they are building will actually create value in the operational environment. And of course - do not be afraid to ask for help and reach out to other, more experienced industry players who will actually be more willing to support you than you may initially think.
What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
Not taking risks is the biggest risk a young entrepreneur can possibly take. Give yourself a break from all the stereotypes of how your career has to turn out right after college and take a shot at life. Even if you fail, the experience you get and the people you meet along your journey are worth much more than a stable monthly paycheck.
What’s unique about the X-Europe programme?
X-Europe is a unique and one-of-a-kind organisation that allows startups from the Baltics, the Visegrad region, and Western Europe to receive unique and useful tools needed to scale up and get our operations up and running. X-Europe is not just creating another acceleration program, it is rather building and fostering a new ecosystem of European deeptech startups who can learn and help each other grow as a whole community.