PixSpan specialized in compressing large imagery files for movies and television, before recognizing applications for its technology to support satellite Earth-observation. Credit: PixSpan

This article was updated June 9 to include two companies inadvertently left out of the original: Xairos and Thermexit.

SAN FRANCISCO –Techstars Space Accelerator launched its 2021 class June 7 with nine U.S. and one Australian company.

While some of the firms are squarely focused on the space sector, others are newcomers after discovering space applications for related technologies like quantum security, photonics, autonomy and communications.

“Many companies don’t initially realize they’re space companies,” Jonathan Fentzke, Techstars Space Accelerator managing director, told SpaceNews.

PixSpan, for example, has largely concentrated on compressing and transmitting imagery files for movies and television,” said Michael Rowny, PixSpan founder and CEO. Only in the last couple of years has PixSpan recognized that Earth-observation companies grapple with many of the same issues.

Government agencies and commercial firms transferring high-resolution imagery from satellites to the ground struggle with limited bandwidth.

“There’s a lot of data there that needs to go to the cloud. We help make that go faster without losing a bit,” Rowny said.

Similarly, Sea Satellites is a San Diego firm that sells and rents autonomous maritime vessels. The firm’s autonomous vehicle technology could be applied to spacecraft proximity operations or outer planet missions, Fentzke said.

The Techstars Space Accelerator class includes:

  • Hypersonic defense company Hyperkelp Engineering of San Clemente, California;
  • Hyperspec.ai, a San Francisco firm that sells sensor kits for autonomous system;
  • Sydney-based Nicslab, a specialist in remote control of scientific instruments;
  • Pierce Aerospace of Indianapolis, which develops digital identification technology and networks;
  • PixSpan, a Rockville, Maryland, firm with data-compression expertise;
  • QuSecure, a San Mateo, California, cybersecurity company focused on quantum threats;
  • Scout of Alexandria, Virginia, a company developing observation systems to safeguard objects in orbit;
  • SeaSatellites, an autonomous surface vessel company;
  • Xairos, a Denver-based quantum security firm; and
  • Thermexit of Boston, a thermal management specialist.

Like the 2020 class, the 2021 Techstars Space Accelerator class plans to meet virtual for the most part.

Arrow Electronics, SAIC, Lockheed Martin, IAI North America and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory signed on as partners working with the 2021 class.

In 2019, Techstars and Starburst Aerospace worked together to establish a new space accelerator. In 2020, Techstars backed the Techstars Starburst Space Accelerator and the Techstars Allied Space Accelerator.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...