ATLAS’ Participation in the Air Force Research Laboratory and Catalyst Space Accelerator Will Create More Resilient Space Communications.
ATLAS Space Operations got some exciting news in late March: We were chosen for the Air Force Research Laboratory’s third Catalyst Space Accelerator cohort.
So … what exactly does that mean? Here’s a breakdown:
The Accelerator program is fairly new, and the Catalyst Campus in Colorado Springs, Colorado, was set up as a private company with a focus on partnerships with the government. Being chosen for the cohort includes access to seed investment by Space Capital Colorado, network connections, mentorship, workshops, and opportunities for future investment and growth. It’s an ecosystem in which the Air Force and companies as large as Microsoft and as small as (or smaller than) ATLAS have a space to bid for federal contracts, with both governmental and commercial entities working together.
Within each cohort, the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate (AFRL/RV) poses a problem statement and solicits answers from small companies who could use business development assistance. The goal of each Accelerator is to make these small yet innovative companies commercially viable while delivering a solution to the government.
This gives an opportunity for rising space industry companies like ATLAS to make a pretty big mark on the industry by promoting an innovative new service to the government, where it can be difficult to grow. We’ve found that despite the complexity involved in selling to the government, it’s one of the best testing grounds. The government is able to absorb some of the commercial risk involved in pursuing groundbreaking new projects – risk that small companies often can’t take on – so this Accelerator program is preparing us to successfully navigate the small business landscape in the government sector.
This cohort focuses on Resilient Commercial Space Communications, so all companies selected have a part to play in ensuring the Air Force’s satellite command and control network is resilient – in other words, difficult to jam, and rapidly deployable. ATLAS falls more into the latter category, via our ability to augment government assets with commercial technology.
For example, if one of the Air Force’s antennas lost connectivity, our various antennas around the world can pick up the slack and join the Air Force’s network, using our API. The software we build acts as an intermediary between a variety of systems and the people operating them, and we can quickly scale the number of antennas using our software.
ATLAS is particularly proud of being selected because these types of programs always validate the market we see for our Freedom Software Platform, and the novel idea of sharing assets in a way that hasn’t really existed in the space industry before. Our goal is to show the AFRL/RV that cloud-based scheduling and satcom as a service don’t need to replace government networks, but instead can augment them, and software plays a key role as well.
On a personal level, it’s a huge honor for me to participate in this cohort; it’s a development opportunity for me as well as for ATLAS. We’re gaining contacts and learning so much from the seminars, and the “Sherpa” assigned to us is helping ensure ATLAS will become commercially successful by assisting with business development – through everything from research on intellectual property and data rights to guidance on human resources necessities.
Companies have become quite successful via the Accelerator, and I can see why: The program is very good at teaching small companies how to navigate business development. The connections we make through the Accelerator cohort – specifically to the ARFL, which can promote the technology to the Air Force – is going to help us unlock our goals of augmenting government command and control networks through our Freedom Software Platform.
Ryan Clulo is Freedom Software Platform engineer at ATLAS Space Operations. Clulo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.