will French be the first solar sail in space?

Thibaut Elzière, the founder of Fotolia and the Startup studio eFounders is full of projects. After launching Folk six months ago, he raised 2 million euros from CNES and BpiFrance to create the first solar sail in space.

Thibaud Elzière was passionate about the internet during his engineering studies, and it hasn’t stopped since. The co-founder of Zilok.com (now Ouicar), his great success was Fotolia, whose stakes he sold three times, in 2009, 2012 and 2014 (the year Adobe bought the whole thing for 800 million dollars). But he was not intended to be a simple business angel.

In fact, he was already anticipating the next move by creating eFounders with Quentin Hickmans, a startup generator that matches his vision and allows him to “have fun”. He himself said it “this is the idea I have of France, between Silicon Valley for products and innovation, and the German side for rigidity and processes”.

Enrich the economic ecosystem

Thibaut Elzière’s view is wide angle, he says he is “sector agnostic”, everyone is probably interested in him, he is convinced that speed and growth, whatever the cost, are important in innovative sectors. Collaborative consumption, food, B2B, and especially everything “measurable”, are therefore likely to develop and take on a new dimension.

Each week, at eFounders, a marketing committee and a product meeting are held to create rhythm, speed and efficiency. You must believe that the recipe is good. EFounders has already built approximately thirty startups for a portfolio worth more than two billion dollars.

From Berlin to Brussels

If Thibaud Elzière had the opportunity to grow up in the Alpilles, it was in Berlin that his business adventure began. Not only did she meet her future husband there, but she also began to lay the first foundations for her Fotolia project. We can’t say enough about the benefits of years spent studying abroad!

At the end of his year in Berlin at Total, he joined his partner in Brussels where he has remained ever since. This southerner is attracted by the quality of life in the Belgian capital, far from the Épinal image of the gray sky as far as the eye can see. Since the pandemic, the man has organized himself, he goes to Paris two days a week, and works from home the rest of the time. He finds this solution extremely productive.

Gamma Space, a science fiction project

A 74 square meter solar sail scheduled to launch into space in a few months, specifically in October, here’s all about it. This is not in the least a hobby on the part of the serial entrepreneur, but in fact a passion. Thibaud Elzière is always in the stars, the galaxy is a very beautiful territory where to dream and why some of his dreams don’t come true.

Two years ago, the project was set up with the head of business contacted by U3P, the Union for the Promotion of Photonic Propulsion in search of a space law specialist. Louis de Gouyon Matignon, now president of Gama, is associated with Andrew Nutter, an investor who is also fond of space. Three partners therefore to take part in this project which was officially born in the summer of 2020. The young startup Gama Space worked in full confidentiality before revealing itself at a fundraising of 2 million euros from CNES (Center national d’Etudes Spatiales), BpiFrance and private investors.

A sail, for what?

Thibaud Elzière became interested already during his studies on solar sails up to the point of dedicating his thesis here in 1999 in collaboration with CNES researchers. The principle is innovative, instead of using electric or chemical propulsion like today, it is a question of using a photonic solution.

Did you say “photonics”?

In other words, this energy enables the function to accelerate over time. The principle is the same as in the sailboat. There is solar wind in the galaxy available for interstellar travel. Light is the machine, made up of photons that hold the sail and transfer their energy to an object, which is then pushed and set in motion.

Philip Lubin, a leading researcher in this type of research, even predicts trips to Earth-Mars in 3 days, or a month for a manned flight. No wonder Thibaud Elzière was extremely passionate and involved in this revolutionary transportation. You want a dream, here it is! No oil, no gas, no electricity …

A veil thinner than a hair

The sail designed by Gama is fifty times thinner than human hair, made of aluminized polyamide. To achieve this task, Gama provided a way: a dozen engineers worked on this innovation in partnership with an American company as well as on their own navigation software, called “Sextant”.

In competition with NASA (USA) and Jaxa (Japan)

All major space agencies are working on the subject, NASA -funded California researchers have already designed a photonic thruster laboratory. Thibaud Elzière has an idea beyond the extraordinary aspect of the concept. It does not forget the basics and has the desire to create a new market segment by offering very competitive missions at a price compared to the current competition equipped with conventional propulsions. One way to explore deep space, including for countries without access today for financial reasons.

Venus set for 2025

The tests will take place concretely until 2025 when a mission for Venus is envisioned. But next October, the “Gama Alpha” mission launched by a SpaceX rocket will deploy the first sail, which will serve as the engine for a small 11-kilo satellite, a first full-scale test that will take place 550 kilometers in above our heads. , although this technology is intended to be used for long -range missions, not in low orbit thereafter. A wonderful epic in perspective.

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