Rafael Jorda, founder and CEO of Open Cosmos, explains how they are making space more accessible. If you’re interested in knowing more about his company and his experience, continue reading!
Astropreneurs: What is Open Cosmos?
Rafael Jorda: Open Cosmos is a company that makes space accessible. That means you can use space technology to solve the biggest world challenges. We deliver simple and affordable space missions to organizations of all sizes and backgrounds, so they can either gather data or deliver their own services. We were selected as ESA’s first Space Mission Provider under the Pioneer program. The company, founded in July 2015, is based near Oxford, in ESA’s Harwell BIC, and is now opening offices in London and Toulouse. Ever since I founded the company, the team has doubled every 6 months to a total of 25+ employees right now coming from over 13 nationalities. We are recruiting 28 positions in a diverse range of areas, so I would advise anyone willing to have an impact into the space industry to look at our career page.
Astropreneurs: How did it all begin?
Rafael Jorda: I founded the company around 2.5 years ago because I realized how hard it was for people to use space technology as a tool. This was due to three major space access barriers: technology, paperwork, and cost. I became obsessed with the technologies and procedures that would allow organizations of all sizes to send payloads to space and enable new business opportunities and science. Until then, satellites had been manufactured on a case by case basis with tailored solutions for each mission. We started to work towards simplifying all the procedures and technical aspects of standard space missions, using interactive tools and modular platforms. By understanding in depth all the limiting factors and bottlenecks during the development of standard space missions, we managed to streamline procedures and support customer needs since the early days. We delivered our first mission in less than 6 months at a fraction of the cost, which was unprecedented in the industry. That satellite is still in orbit fully functional.
Astropreneurs: Which main problems are you solving with your technologies and services?
Rafael Jorda: Open Cosmos simplifies access to space by reducing the three main barriers in the space sector: complex technology, consuming paperwork, and extreme costs. This is achieved using two services: Simple-i, which enables innovative payloads to be developed using qbkit, a payload development platform; qbapp, a cloud-based mission and system simulator; and Simple-o, a one-stop-shop service that takes care of all aspects required to gather data or provide services from your own space missions.
Astropreneurs: What kind of innovations are you bringing to the space sector?
Rafael Jorda: Our innovation lies in our approach to solving the problem of high complexity, long time to market, and expensive access to space. In the space industry you are either a subsystem manufacturer, a satellite integrator, a satellite operator, a ground segment provider, or a launch service provider. Simple-o bundles all of those pieces together in a turnkey solution around our three key products:
- qbapp: our software-as-a-service platform in which you can purchase a space mission, define your mission architecture, do monitoring and planning of the mission elements while the hardware is being built and integrated, and finally operate your assets in orbit.
- qbkit: our payload qualification platform, which allows either our customer or our payload partner to develop, test and qualify their payloads within only weeks before integration into our nanosatellite bus.
- qbee: our modular, flight-proven nanosatellite bus, which can provide up to 20 kg of mass to payloads supporting missions ranging from remote sensing to communication, automatic identification system, and geolocalization.
Astropreneurs: How would a perfect payload/mission look like for your platforms?
Rafael Jorda: We are completely payload agnostic. We fly telecommunication payloads, remote sensing payloads, or scientific payloads as long as they are compatible and working on qbkit. If a customer just wants to have a service or a specific dataset, we find them the right payload among the ones that have already been integrated with us, which becomes a very important sales channel for some of our technology development customers. Therefore, the perfect payload is any payload capable of solving challenging problems from space, it doesn’t matter if it is using remote sensing technologies, telecommunication technologies, or performing breakthrough science.
Astropreneurs: Which were the main difficulties to start a company in the space sector?
Rafael Jorda: Overcoming the financial barriers, demonstrating that we could deliver high performance platforms at a fraction of the time and cost while growing a team at the same time. In general, it is difficult to start any company, especially if it is done with a new vision and concepts never explored before in a given industry.
Astropreneurs: What are the most urgent needs in the nanosatellite sector?
Rafael Jorda: Stop tailoring satellites and allow mass customization that enforce payload ride sharing in the same missions while maximizing efficiency. We need to truly democratize space technology as it happened in the computer industry.
Astropreneurs: From your perspective, which are the best countries to start a space business?
Rafael Jorda: If you are a US national, probably starting there is the best option. At the end of the day, it is still the biggest market and access to funding is easier. In Europe, we have found that the UK provides an excellent ecosystem and understands the importance of the space sector, with good support to entrepreneurs and probably the best funding ecosystem in Europe.
Astropreneurs: What would you recommend to astropreneurs starting a new business in space?
Rafael Jorda: Find the customers first, understand their needs deeply and when you have a real need identified with a sustainable business model, leverage on partners, like Open Cosmos, to bring that solution to market quickly. Do not reinvent the wheel and focus only on the technologies that bring you a higher competitive advantage. Do not start a company because the technology is cool, start a company to solve a big problem.
Astropreneurs: Where would you like your company to be in five years’ time? And in ten?
Rafael Jorda: In five years I hope we have helped hundreds of customers to have working infrastructures in space solving the biggest global challenges. Energy consumption, food and natural resources, optimized productions, environmental sustainability, global communications… We believe many of our customers have excellent propositions to target some of these big problems and we want to enable them to bring these solutions to the world quickly. Five years is already a long term for a fast-paced company like Open Cosmos, but if you believe that in ten years Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the agencies will have bases on the Moon, Mars, or in deep space, I would love to see our technologies supporting those bases with similar space infrastructure to the one we are currently providing to Earth.
Posted by Daniel Sors Raurell