Green technologies and the take-off of small and medium-sized space companies
By Alan Pereira, Venture Partner, Seldor Capital
A recent panel of space-industry insiders, hosted by Silicon Valley Space Startups & Satellites, discussed the pros-and-cons of “green" alternatives to conventional chemical propulsion systems, which are known to be harmful. During the discussion one theme stuck out: green space technologies are good for business, but only when they are technically superior and more efficient than conventional technologies.
Thinking medium to long term, it is safe to bet that the commercial space industry will continue to grow at an exponential rate. Naturally, a lot of this growth will come from the big players, who will be reaching farther, with bigger rockets and complex operations, all of which may or may not be entirely green.
Now enter the space startups: a great portion of the growth in the space sector will come from different types of space startups, which will create a dramatic increase in the number, frequency and location of space launches of all sizes and types. Because of these new services, together with lower barriers of entry a general democratization of space activities is underway. Soon, some types of customers will be able to contact a launch service provider, buy launch services and launch payload to space in a matter of days. When the space industry gets to that point it will have to reckon with the fact that it is a polluting industry, and that it uses toxic substances on a large scale. The reputational and financial damage that come with that kind of label are obviously not pretty.
Launch technology companies that invest now in green alternatives will have a natural edge in the future. In order to reap the benefits of being a successful green space company, startups today will have developed technologies that make sense from a technical, commercial, and environmental perspective. Focusing on only one or two of these prongs may prove unsuccessful. A good example of a company succeeding in being green and effective is Aphelion Aerospace. Aphelion is among a select group of companies leading the way to bring satellite launches to the masses — the kicker is that it plans to do so affordably and in an environmentally sustainable manner. Aphelion has developed state-of-the-art propulsion technology that is highly efficient, while eliminating the need for handling highly toxic and expensive chemicals in its processes, doing away with fossil fuels, and cutting down emissions of pollutants.
Lastly, the greening of the space industry will have a positive overall and much needed effect on an industry that has recently been under the spotlight for being an industry led by billionaires and that neglects our major problems down here on Earth.