May 22, 2024

June 5, 2024

5YF Episode #16: Epsilon3 CEO Laura Crabtree

Space command reimagined, automating mission control, new deep tech hubs, interstellar missions, and the future of space operations w/ Epsilon3 CEO Laura Crabtree

5 year frontier

Episode Transcript

Future of space operations: automating mission control

subscribe and listen today

Today, we look ahead at how space operations are being digitized and automated, enhancing speed, improving reliability, and decreasing the cost of accessing space.

When I joined this industry, I was told you can get two of three things: faster, better, or cheaper. And you can only get two. All of us that joined SpaceX wanted to challenge that paradigm.
My takeaway - over the next 5 years:
  • Small teams will drive access to space
  • Interconnectedness between space and the broader economy will spark a cycle of innovation
  • New deep tech hubs become pillars of future US innovation supremacy

My guide to the near frontier is Laura Crabtree, CEO of Epsilon3, a software platform designed to manage and orchestrate engineering, testing, and operations for the space industry and other complex industries. Backed by frontier investors Lux Capital and Village Global, Epsilon3 serves NASA, Virgin Galactic, and the United States Space Force. Their software is embedded throughout these organizations and seeks to drive operational excellence amidst the complex chaos. Laura spent a decade at SpaceX as a Senior Mission Operations Engineer, as well as five years at Northrop Grumman as a Systems Controller, providing us with a unique perspective on the two generations of space companies.

Let’s dive into what stood out when previewing the future of space and complex operations through Laura’s eyes.

Small teams will drive access to space

Intelligent software automation is coming to the space industry and will make a significant impact on operational headcount. Expect a proliferation of smaller teams composed of immensely capable researchers, scientists, engineers, and controllers that can deliver space programs previously reserved for the industrial complex.

You won’t see 50 people in a control room for launch…you’ll see 5 controlling 50 different assets and a couple of 100 assets that are mostly operating on their own

While increasing automation is a common macro trend, the complex workflows, data security, and scrutinized regulatory environment have meant that for the space industry to benefit from advances in software intelligence, they require homegrown solutions. These are the kinds of solutions that the new generation of space entrepreneurs, like Laura, is ushering in with Epsilon3.

Importantly, the buyers they are selling to have become far more receptive with the arrival of new private sector entrants, from SpaceX to new startups, who are seeking to outcompete the industrial complex by showcasing their agility, speed, and lower cost structure.

It is a win for the space industry and signals a further lowering of the barriers to accessing space. We have already witnessed this in rocket manufacturing, with SpaceX employing only one-sixth of the engineers that Boeing does. Additionally, the emerging startup Rocket Lab, which 3D prints its rockets, has only one-tenth the number of employees as SpaceX.

Interconnectedness between space and the broader economy will spark a cycle of innovation

Space is rapidly becoming a viable theater for the private sector, expanding the range of businesses being built. No longer limited to space exploration and communication satellites, we are now seeing companies mining asteroids for minerals, manufacturing advanced alloys in microgravity, developing novel pharmaceuticals, advancing crop propagation and terraforming, and making strides in solar energy harvesting.

As access to space democratizes, the list of applications grows, fostering tighter collaboration and innovation transfer between the space industry and other sectors of the economy. In five years, I envision a stronger synergy between cutting-edge advancements in space and their applications on Earth, and vice versa, particularly as founders and operators in both sectors increasingly cross-pollinate

Hypersonics, Supersonics, I think there’s going to be a lot growth in those areas in the 5 years. I’m really excited to travel to a different country in an hour or two!

One area Laura highlights for the near term is aerospace. An obvious beneficiary of advances in flight, it will usher in hypersonic and supersonic travel on Earth to dramatic effect.

New deep tech hubs become pillars of future US innovation supremacy

Silicon Valley has powered America's position as the world's leading innovator. While the landscape has become more diverse and interesting since COVID, a bigger shift is taking shape. Deep tech innovation is turning science fiction into science fact, benefiting from Silicon Valley's advancements in AI and making groundbreaking strides in space, robotics, and life sciences. These industries require different physical infrastructure, specialized partners, and expert talent. Startups and their operators are integrating with traditional aerospace and defense hubs such as El Segundo, Colorado, and Florida's Space Coast, creating new, fast-moving ecosystems of innovation.

After SpaceX started in 2002, you now have the ability for those people to go to a startup just down the street. And now you have a startup mentality being born in this area

As the technology curve steepens, encompassing dramatic advances in humanity's ability to travel throughout the solar system, exert command over the building blocks of life, and unlock transformative breakthroughs in energy and material sciences, the locations where these innovations will be developed will become pivotal hubs of industry and research. Harboring the organizations and facilities that will underpin the most critical sectors of the US economy.

What’s clear is that the countdown to the future has begun!

- Daniel Darling

Featured Resources

June 6, 2023

June 7, 2023

Introducing 🧨
We're thrilled to announce the launch of our open source VC database -
company news

April 26, 2023

April 26, 2023

focal is live 👋
We just launched our firm's new name and bold brand: focal
company news

February 22, 2024

February 28, 2024

Early vesting is broken!
At startups, too often, too much of the cap table is owned by individuals who left before things started to work, causing resentment amongst the ones who made it work. Early vesting needs rethinking.
pascal's notes

October 19, 2023

October 27, 2023

What it takes to raise capital in 2023
The fundraising environment remains tricky to navigate for startups. Frameworks, like Point 9’s renowned SaaS funding napkins, offer a good a good temperature check on the early stage funding market.
pascal's notes

September 29, 2023

October 27, 2023

Cold Outbound is Under-Appreciated
To get to their initial B2B customers, most founders first tap into their network. That works well for some, but leads many others down a wrong path. Cold outbound is an under-appreciated alternative.
pascal's notes

July 13, 2023

July 20, 2023

🧱#8: The VC Rebrand Guide
Rebranding and revamping your website is no easy task. We lay out step-by-step how we did it for focal, all the way to launch.
brick by brick

April 12, 2023

April 25, 2023

🧱#7: Navigating Year-End
Now that the busy year-end season is (mostly) behind us, we look back at the operational lessons we've learned in the last six months.
brick by brick

March 20, 2023

April 25, 2023

🧱#6: On Point Offsite
In January, we had a week-long team offsite across Virginia & Miami. While the primary draw was to see each other, reconnect, & align, we also got a ton of work done. Here's what we learned.
brick by brick
No items found.

June 5, 2024

June 5, 2024

5YF Episode #17: Colossal Biosciences CEO Ben Lamm
Defeating death, programming life, resurrecting the Woolly Mammoth, AI’s blueprint for biotech, and the future of genetic engineering w/ Colossal Biosciences CEO Ben Lamm
5 year frontier

May 8, 2024

May 8, 2024

5YF Episode #15: Bright Machines CEO Lior Susan
Factory automation, humanoid robots, digital twins, building the backbone of AI and the future of manufacturing w/ Bright Machines CEO / Eclipse VC Lior Susan
5 year frontier

April 24, 2024

April 24, 2024

5YF Episode #14: Carbon Co-Founder Philip DeSimone
3D printing breakthroughs, AI designed products, mass customization, spare body parts, dismantling global trade, IP piracy, and the future of production w/ Carbon Co-founder Philip DeSimone
5 year frontier