Alba Orbital is a British satellite producer and launch integration service provider that develops small satellites called PocketQubes. PocketQubes are small satellites with a size of 5 cm cubed, and lighter in weight than the CubeSats (10 cm x 10 cm x 11.35 cm). Alba Orbital also provides satellite components and launch integration services for PocketQubes.  They are one of the few launch brokers for PocketQubes.

PocketQubes were developed to enhance the miniaturization of satellites. They were first proposed by Professor Bob Twiggs of Morehead State University in 2009. The technology will provide an option for technology demonstration and observation to many universities and small companies. With the use of CubeSats, the cost of access to space has been lowered. However, the prices still prohibit a lot of players from participating in the race. PocketQubes are expected to lower down the prices further, thus opening the doors for a wide variety of applications (including options for constellations) to a large proportion of the society. As of the end of 2019, only 11 PocketQubes have been launched in space.

Unicorn-2 Platform for 3p PocketQube

Astropreneurs had a chance to speak with Mr. Tom Walkinshaw, CEO and Founder of Alba Orbital. He is also one of the Forbes 30 under 30 Tech in the year 2017. On 6th December 2019, Alba Orbital had a launch of six PocketQube satellites aboard the Electron rocket of Rocket Labs.

Astropreneurs: Please tell us about the services provided by your company.

Tom Walkinshaw: We make PocketQubes, which are small satellites of mass under 1 kg. It has a size of 5 cm cube in dimensions.

Astropreneurs: What inspired you to enter in the space industry?

Tom Walkinshaw: I was interested in space. It was my inspiration to work in the space industry.

Astropreneurs: Every journey is full of hurdles, what obstacles did you face at different stages of developing your company?

Tom Walkinshaw: There are a lot of things in the beginning: from funding to finding people. I would say one would face a hurdle in the entire process of building it.

Unicorn-2 Platform for 3p PocketQube

Astropreneurs: What are your views on small satellites as a disruptive technology and the democratization of space technology?

Tom Walkinshaw: We definitely support the democratization of space through our services. We are big fans of small satellites, particularly the ones under 1kg, e.g. PocketQubes. We think it is the future of satellite technology and very soon we are going to see more of them in orbit. We are going to launch more of them next year.

Astropreneurs: According to you, what are certain things that anyone thinking of doing a business in space should know about?

Tom Walkinshaw: I would say it’s definitely not an easy task, but if you are passionate about space and always work hard and well, you can definitely make it happen. 

Astropreneurs: What is your message to the budding entrepreneurs in UK and all around the world?

Tom Walkinshaw: Entrepreneurship is hard. It is only good if you really want to start your own company. If you have a dream and you give your best shot, you can succeed.

Posted by Ananyo Bhattacharya