SAN FRANCISCO – Orbital Outpost X, a Silicon Valley space technology startup formerly called Space Villages, received a $5 million convertible note from Space Infrastructures Ventures of the Netherlands.
With the loan, which will become an equity investment in the startup’s Series A round, OOX will continue to develop components, systems and subsystems for commercial space stations.
Launch costs have fallen in recent years, but it remains expensive to conduct experiments or perform manufacturing in orbit, Adolfo Nemirovsky, OOX founder and president, told SpaceNews.
“We need to still work on reducing the cost of space operations to make the economy work,” Nemirovsky said. “We are focusing on these areas to reduce the costs.”
Orbital Outpost 1
A sister company backed by Space Infrastructures Ventures, Space Villages of the Netherlands, is conducting a study for the European Space Agency on a a commercial space station in low-Earth orbit called Orbital Outpost 1. ESA awarded the 200,000 euro ($219,150) contract to Space Infrastructures Ventures in February.
“We are planning a modular infrastructure, which starts from very little and scales up based on market demand,” said Jose Alonso, Space Infrastructures Ventures president and founder. “We are applying a number of disruptive technologies which will help reduce significantly the costs of the modules by an order of magnitude.”
Space Infrastructure Ventures is investing in U.S. and European startups as part of its goal to deploy a commercial space station by the end of decade. The Orbital Outpost 1 space station will be tended by robots and human crews. It will include habitation modules and orbital logistic vehicles to fetch payloads sent to low-Earth orbit and bring them to the space station, Alonso said.
“This is a long-term plan for actual colonization of LEO,” Alonso said. “Our plans are to have more than 100 humans in a space. “When you scale up to have a lot of people and a lot of activity, this is when the business plan starts to work.”
Space Station Components
While Space Infrastructures Ventures focuses on the big picture, OOX is developing component technologies.
For example, OOX won a $175,000 NASA Small Business Technology Transfer award last year to merge virtual and augmented reality to train astronauts to work with space instruments, tools, vehicles and structures. OOX also is developing a universal interface to transfer fluids, electricity and data between space station modules. And the company is working on a space-rated water electrolyzer to provide pressurized hydrogen and oxygen for rocket fuel, fuel cells and life support.
Each of the technologies has terrestrial and space applications.
“Hopefully the space economy will take off in the next 10 years or so,” Nemirovsky said. “But if it takes longer, the investors want to know the money they invest is building high-value companies. All the component technologies have intrinsic value besides the space economy.”