SAN FRANCISCO – With $7.5 million in the bank from a recent investment round, Sift, an El Segundo, California, startup founded by former SpaceX software engineers, is focused on growth.
Specifically, “growing the team and growing our customer base,” Sift CEO Karthik Gollapudi told SpaceNews.
Sift was founded in 2022 by Gollapudi, former Dragon flight software lead, and Austin Spiegel, former Starlink Constellation Tools team lead, to develop a proprietary telemetry stack to improve the way machine data is recorded, visualized and interpreted. Potential customers include space companies and other businesses building complex machines.
In the future, Sift also wants to help customers “automate away a lot of tasks,” Gollapudi said. Particularly for customers with large satellite constellations, “we’re trying to give people the tools to help one operator manage an entire constellation,” he added.
Spacecraft tend to have complex software running on complex hardware.
“Part of the challenge is validating that the software is working correctly before deploying it,” said Spiegel, Sift chief technology officer.
At SpaceX, software changes are executed in a simulated environment before being moved to hardware-in-the-loop testbeds.
“At each stage, whether it’s simulated or a hardware-in-the-loop test or a vehicle-in-the-loop test, you’re collecting telemetry and reviewing the data in order to proceed to the next stage,” Spiegel said.
The Origin Story
Gollapudi began considering the need for improved software tools after Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner failed to dock with the International Space Station in 2019. A joint review by NASA and Boeing recommended improvements in the way Boeing handled testing and simulation, software updates and knowledge capture.
Over the next few years, Gollapudi and Spiegel noted additional examples of accidents or problems caused by software or process errors like the software glitch that prevented a lander from Japan’s ispace from touching down on the moon in April.
To investigate whether these problems were widespread, they spoke with people at 17 companies.
“That just increased our conviction that somebody needed to build this,” Gollapudi said.
Sift hired its first employee early this year. The company currently has a staff of 12.