Meet the founders – Celestial Space
1- Can you briefly explain what your solution is all about? What’s unique about it?
Celestial is a satellite systems provider and an expert in delivering telecommunication solutions for satellites. Celestial´s team works with its clients to design high-performance satellite antennas, customized according to the client´s mission requirements, and deliver highly reliable solutions. Our product and service offering is highly adaptable. We have antenna models based on common mission requirements which are readily available with only minor modifications. This is a high quality yet an off-the-shelf solution for satellite developers on a tight schedule. In parallel, we have the know-how to design customized antennas that are tailored to mission requirements. This is an optimal solution for satellite developers who are looking for the best possible performance early in their development stage. Either way, the antenna will be high performance and we deliver turnkey solutions. For antennas, this means we support our clients as early as during the communication link design. Based on this we verify the antenna performance requirements and optimize the engineering solution as much as the client desires. Afterwards, we coordinate manufacturing and testing and deliver the hardware along with performance and qualification reporting ready for satellite integration.
2- What’s the story behind your company? How was the idea for this business born?
Celestial was founded by a space engineer with great intuition for the industry and an industrial engineer with effective management abilities to enable innovation. The founders met during a space hackathon in Berlin in 2018. At this time, they worked out a concept for a lunar relay satellite constellation. Since then, the founders put the focus on the core technology and quickest path to commercialization of related products. Consequently, the company finished the development of 2 satellite antennas and is currently offering them to the space industry. Even though the original idea changed the vision stayed the same: Celestial aims to make space more accessible and eventually enable lunar and deep space small satellite missions.
3-Which is the challenge that your solution tackles, and how do you set apart from the other companies with similar solutions?
Satellite mission failure is caused up to 30 % by faults in communication hardware, including antennas. Celestial aims to make communication hardware more reliable. We have assessed the products of companies also acting as antenna suppliers. Benchmarking our product with theirs revealed, Celestial’s antenna is very thin and offers a high gain. This relation is ideal for the target segment of small satellites which have limited available input power. Overall, Celestial´s antenna offers a highly competitive price/performance ratio. Its performance is 3 times as high as the industry baseline set by most competitors.
Moreover, we are the only private company working on highly integrated small satellite antennas, suitable for government and commercial satellites, operating in LEO and beyond. We are applying our capabilities to develop affordable solutions that enable new space companies to reach higher orbits, at lower cost and with better connectivity.
4- What are your goals, and what’s the biggest challenge you are trying to overcome at this moment?
One of the main critique points that we have been facing was the lack of innovation in our products. One of our antennas has a performance 3 times as good as the baseline performance of most competitors. However, it is still only an incremental improvement over existing solutions and not a novelty in itself. This has been the main concern in terms of Celestials’ ability to establish itself on the market and long-term competitiveness. To address this, a concept for a highly integrated multifunctional antenna has been developed. The resulting product will be a novelty that is currently not commercially available. The IP generated during this R&D will remain in-house and suppliers and partners have already been identified for the activity. The designs are ready and we are preparing for prototyping and testing. This new product is the first step in our plan to extend the product portfolio of the company. Celestial will not only offer additional types of antennas but also other satellite subsystems and long term also satellites. Celestials ultimate goal is to spread its business model vertically along the entire value chain.
5- What advice would you give to an entrepreneur trying to pave his/her way in the space sector landscape?
Based on my own experience, I can confirm the good advice, probably every founder will get.
Product development has to be customer-focused. This is a requirement to reach commercial success in a later stage and provides development guidelines. Customer-focused development refers to the identification of a problem/need in the industry and the development of a concept for a tailored solution/offer. In the next step, the product/market fit has to be verified. To achieve this, a conversation and discussion with multiple customers is required. During this interaction, the desirability of the solution, and more importantly the willingness of the customer to pay for the solution needs to be confirmed. Starting with these activities will provide clear guidelines for technology and product development. Further, this procedure is most time and cost efficient because the risk for re-design in a later stage can be minimized.
Closely related to the activities concerning the product/market fit is the definition of the core business model and verification of the business case. For the business model, the internal value creation activities have to be identified. To be able to perform this activity, external resources and partners have to be arranged. Considering the related cost and prospective profit, based on customer interactions, the attractiveness of the project can be assessed. If the product development results in a clear profit, the activities can be scaled to a meaningful amount of fulfilled customer orders, and the related market allows for the prospective revenue, the business case has been validated.
Project management aims to break down the activities required to achieve an overall goal into smaller sub tasks and assign them. Parallel to this a timeline and budget has to be allocated. While executing the plan, unforeseen costs and delays can be expected. To account for these, time and financial buffers/reserves have to be considered. Throughout the activities, a frequent comparison of the planned progress with the actual status is necessary. This will indicate whether the set deadlines can still be adhered to. Only the identification of complications ahead of time enables the preparation for mitigation measures and reduces the risk of overall project failure.
6- About SUN, why did you apply?
Celestial is established as a company, has know-how in the team, has products on the market, has no immediate funding needs, and collected far-reaching industry connections already. The company is ready to scale it´s business. Most important for this are sales and guidance in business strategy. The SUN accelerator offers a broad range of mentors, with profiles that match our mentoring needs. Therefore, the program offers the know-how we need to grow the project from a startup to an established company.