An interview with Jose Mariano Lopez-Urdiales, founder and CEO of Zero 2 Infinity
Astropreneurs: When was Zero 2 Infinity founded and how did you come up with that idea?
Jose Mariano Lopez-Urdiales: I founded Zero 2 Infinity back in 2009. I grew up surrounded by rockets and balloons, because of my father’s work, so for me working with those elements was the logical next step.
Astropreneurs: What projects are you working on?
Jose Mariano Lopez-Urdiales: Right now, we have three active projects: Elevate, Bloon, and Bloostar. With Elevate, we offer our customers our elevation services with high altitude balloons, for example, for testing of components in space-like conditions or for science experiments. There is a market for that! We are gradually increasing capabilities, and we are going to take people and small satellites in space. With Bloon, our pod for space tourism, we will fly people to near space with balloons, where they will enjoy a calm trip with the views of the curvature of the Earth and the blackness of space. And finally, with Bloostar, we are developing a small satellite launcher based on the rockoon concept: a rocket that flies to the stratosphere with a balloon, ignites past 99% of the atmosphere and inserts its payload into orbit.
Astropreneurs: What are the advantages of Bloostar compared to a traditional rocket?
Jose Mariano Lopez-Urdiales: If you launch from sea level, your rocket will need some costly features, but if you are already in vacuum, your rocket will be more efficient because of the ratio between pressure inside the rocket and pressure outside. Bloostar, for example, doesn’t have turbopumps, which are very expensive. Thus its development is less costly. Another advantage is that it is made especially to fly in vacuum conditions: you don’t need to make it work at sea level. It’s very difficult to make the vehicle work both in vacuum and sea level! With the balloons, instead of fighting gravity, we use it to our advantage.
Astropreneurs: Tell us more about Bloon.
Jose Mariano Lopez-Urdiales: Bloon is a pressurized pod (just like an airplane) that flies to 36 km thanks to a helium balloon. At 36 km, the passengers get an amazing view of the Earth and space. It can take up to six people and we plan to launch it from different locations all over the world, so that people can experience different views from our planet. We’ve already flown different payloads for testing purposes and have a real-size prototype in our headquarters.
Astropreneurs: Which aspects do you find the most difficult of starting a company in the space sector?
Jose Mariano Lopez-Urdiales: Finding investment is always a challenge. Now we have a healthy base of investors from all over the world. Investing in space is relatively new, although, lately there have been some successes and it has become more usual. Still, finding investment is never easy. Other parts have been easier, for example, finding quality suppliers or talented team members!
Astropreneurs: Any tips on how to find investment?
Jose Mariano Lopez-Urdiales: Just to have in mind not all investors are looking for the same. For example, our investors are very diverse. And sometimes, it’s them that introduce us to other investors, because they see what we are doing and we explain them the technical details, and they like it. I would also recommend to go to different events and to meet a lot of people. You never know where you are going to find investors or people that will become key for your project.
Astropreneurs: What advice would you give to someone looking to create a space startup?
Jose Mariano Lopez-Urdiales: To make sure you are surrounded with hard working people who have the same goals as you and to never surrender. And to be creative!
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Posted by Marta Lebron