Unlocking the potential of data from space.
Dan Nevius and Justin Oliveira entered Harvard Business School as strangers and left as co-founders. Both had previously worked at the White House. A mutual contact realized the two would be attending HBS together and introduced them. She was certain that their shared interest in space and small satellite technology would bond them. That bet paid off. “We started talking immediately when we got to school. We knew we wanted to be entrepreneurs,” Justin says. The fact they are both proud Eagle Scouts meant the trust and the friendship was built that much more quickly.
In a previous life, Dan worked on the CERES constellation of remote sensing satellites at Planetary Resources. He became an expert on novel imaging technologies to produce actionable data sets in precision agriculture, climate monitoring, and city planning. These data sets literally help feed, organize, and protect our planet. Typically, satellites only have the ability to offload data for two to three hours per day, as much of their time is spent over the ocean where data can’t be offloaded. These geographical constraints create a major data downlink bottleneck that limits the amount of imagery that can be generated and put to good use solving global challenges.
In February of 2016, Justin and Dan put together some initial ideas for a startup. They were interested in combining their experience and interests in small satellite technologies to address the monumental challenge of data transfer from remote sensing satellites. Analytical Space, a global data relay service powered by a network of small satellites, was born. When Analytical Space’s relays are fully deployed, their satellites will increase the amount of time that other satellites have connectivity, maximizing the amount of data throughput and decreasing latency. Also working in their favor: their satellites are designed to be compatible with most of the existing communication systems used on remote sensing satellites in space today.
The team, comprised of former NASA, Raytheon, Draper, and Lincoln Lab engineers as well as consultants from BCG, IBM, and Accenture, has been able to leverage their experience to move quickly. Their next big milestone will be to launch their first demonstration satellite into a low Earth orbit in early 2018. Their prototype relay satellite will ride in a cargo resupply capsule to the International Space Station where it will then be deployed into its own orbit.
With Analytical Space’s commercial product, communication platforms can build a massive network in space. Satellite imaging can have a huge impact on climate change and its related challenges. Dan and Justin are called to this work because of its endless potential to positively impact the environment and society on a global level. “They have exactly what you want to see from a founding team,” says Ally Yost, an investor at The Engine. “Deep technological expertise with a nuanced understanding of the needs of the space industry, tackling a problem that is only growing in scope and scale.”
“When we had met with other investors and accelerators, we had to start every conversation with a physics lesson. When we sat down with The Engine, they immediately understood what we were describing,” Justin says. Besides the access to equipment and resources, the patient capital and focus on taking on challenging problems that touch all scientific disciplines was a huge draw for Analytical Space. Their dream is to one day be the data railroad for the solar system and beyond.