Neutron Star Systems | 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 Neutron Star Systems, a startup focused on commercializing a unique and first-of-its-kind high-temperature superconductor (HTS) based Applied-Field Magnetoplasmadynamic (AF-MPD) electric propulsion system for space missions.
Can you briefly explain what your solution is all about? What’s unique about it?
We are solving the problem of power upscaling in space. Spacecraft have reached the upper limit of their power capabilities using conventional technologies, preventing the implementation of more capable spacecraft. This limit arises because conventional technologies for propulsion and power management become large, heavy, and inefficient at higher powers. In particular, current electric propulsion (EP) systems do not meet customer needs for high-power missions: they have narrow operating ranges, cannot be scaled to higher powers, and rely on expensive and rare fuels.
Our product, SUPREME, is a ground-breaking EP system based on the combination of Applied-Field Magnetoplasmadynamic (AF-MPD) thruster technology, enhanced with the use of high-temperature superconductors (HTS). SUPREME uses a combination of electric and magnetic fields to accelerate a plasma and generate thrust. SUPREME is more scalable, has a wider operating range, and uses cheaper propellants, than existing solutions, and is inherently suited for missions with a large delta-V that need a throttleable operation. The unique performance capabilities of our technology fulfill the demanding propulsion requirements for a wide variety of space mission scenarios. The propulsion system is customizable and will support near-Earth, cis-Lunar and interplanetary missions for a plethora of purposes: on-orbit servicing and manufacturing (OSAM), orbital transfers using space tugs, orbital refueling, satellite constellations deployment, and maintenance, etc.
The HTS technology being developed has several other applications too. The one, which we are the most excited about, is a radiation shielding system using HTS. Such a shielding system will not only prevent telecommunication blackout during the critical phase of spacecraft re-entry into a planet’s atmosphere but also provide a significant reduction in thermal protection system (TPS) mass by reducing heat loads.
With us, the future is electric!
What led you to start or join your company? What is the key motivation and mission behind the startup?
The limitless applications which the SUPREME technology offers in the exponentially growing space industry are what motivates us all to be part of Neutron Star Systems. The agile environment of a startup combined with the varied experience of our international team members coming from diverse backgrounds is what keeps the workplace exciting.
The desire to revolutionize the space industry and bring humanity forward through our collaborative effort is our guiding principle. Our mission, thus, is to enable the next generation of spaceflight capabilities and inspire humanity for generations to come.
What’s the biggest milestone your startup has achieved so far, and what has surprised you most on this journey?
Our technology has already been recognized by market leaders in Europe and United States. Our commercial traction is demonstrated by the signing of 11 MoUs, Letters of Endorsements, and Partnership Agreements with entities throughout the globe, including the European Space Agency (ESA). We have also recently incorporated NSS in the United States!
The most surprising thing we have experienced on this journey is that even the highly advanced and established entities can be oblivious to the potential of the now-matured novel technologies and that they can be woken up by startups like us for a collaborative effort. Another surprising enigma we have discovered is that the funding policies can be paradoxical. For example, we have seen our core technology get funded for certain applications, but not for others, even though the challenges and benefits are highly synergistic.
How has X-Europe helped you during the past few months?
Till now, X-Europe has helped us to understand the space startup ecosystem in Europe through its events. We have also been using the platforms to seek talent globally for the company. The investor-readiness training offered by the cohort proved to be very useful as it provided us with the relevant tips and tricks to further enhance our investment opportunities. We are excited about mentor and investor matchmaking services and hope to polish our skills in the various trainings and webinars offered by the cohort.
What are your goals over the next 3, 6, and 12 months?
In 3 months, we hope to be in the closing stretch of our seed fundraising round. In 6 months, we plan to be deep in the detailed design process for our thruster prototype, aiming for TRL 6. In 12 months, we are planning to start putting the pieces of our prototype together in the lab!
What advice would you give to an entrepreneur trying to pave his/her way in the Space landscape?
Do your homework! The space industry is traditionally conservative. When you are trying to bring a disruptive or new technology/idea to the market, the space industry will be very cautious and look for any reason to discredit it. Make sure you know the technology inside out and have answers to all the doubts people might raise. Above all, if you believe in the idea, do whatever it takes to convince people it is right and build it.
What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
Everything is connected in space and engineering. Things that might seem irrelevant at that point may end up being critically important just a short time later. Take every opportunity to learn about the things which come your way – you will never know when they might come in handy.
What’s unique about the X-Europe programme?
X-Europe is a one-stop-shop for receiving mentoring, investment opportunities, and hands-on business development tips. Growth and learning in collaboration with other European SpaceTech startups are what we find most interesting and useful.
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