Start-ups are starting to find their place in the space sector, but there is still a long way to go to maintain the New Space ecosystem, sector players noted at the Paris Air Forum organized by La Tribune. This is particularly the case of David Henri, co-founder of Exotrail, who has now become product manager after being its CEO until October 2021. “A year ago, the message I was sending was to call start-ups to entrust them with operational contracts, real-life contracts, not just grants.”, he recalled. now, “I have a slightly different language because there are so many things we recommend and consider”.
Startup accelerators, representation within Cospace, a grant-contract system that allows the effect of leverage in terms of financing, and finally a voice that is now being considered at the European level thanks to the Yess union, for Young European Enterprises Syndicate for Space now supports startups. “A radical evolution compared to a year ago”welcomes David Henri.
A sign of confidence in New Space
CEO and founder of Rennes start-up Unseenlabs Clément Galic agrees: “Things are moving, things are moving forward”. “In 2015, we didn’t fit in any boxhe recalled. In terms of financing, it’s very complicated “. The start-up succeeded thanks to the Definvest investment fund, created in 2017 by the General Directorate of Armaments (DGA) and Bpifrance, then the Defense Innovation Agency (AID), which first formed a demonstrator: “It’s not paper, it’s a satellite” intended to prove a technology. Today, Unseenlabs has successfully launched seven radio frequency signal detection satellites and aims to have a constellation of 10 satellites by the end of the year, then twenty within two years. A success based on the beginning “state trust”.
Now, the European Commission is putting money on the table to ask new players to look at issues that have so far been reserved for major European system providers, “a real sign of confidence”, according to Clement Galic. Gamma, positioned in the space exploration market, is supported by the National Center for Space Studies (CNES) and Bpifrance. But Louis de Gouyon Matignon, its boss and founder, believes that if the first steps were easier to take, the next steps would remain difficult.
“The intuition we have is in Europe today, especially in France, for everything pre-seed, seed. (the initial fundraising and fundraising stage, editor’s note), lots of funds. But from the moment we go to series A (fundraising to accelerate its development, editor’s note), we want to industrialize society, it will be more complex “he believes, recognizing the question of going to the United States for an A series.
Europe must have a more coherent approach
The European Space Agency (ESA) and the DGA have now put together start-ups to support their needs, but they recognize that there is still a long way to go. “Europe represents 15% of public space funding in the world”, underlined Géraldine Naja, ESA’s director of marketing, industrialization and supply. But he “ now only 5% » for private investment. “What we lack is a coherent approach, a little more visibility, and global support for star-tups, especially for new markets”he believes.
“The main challenge for the coming years is to integrate the solutions offered by the New Space ecosystem into real operational capabilities”believes Jean-Baptiste Paing, Chief Armament Engineer and Defense Systems Architect “Command and Information Control”, Connectivity, and Space Coordinator at DGA. “We are still in the potential of exploration, innovation”, according to him. The challenge is to enable start-ups to find their place in the market and not rely on one customer. “This is the whole basis of France’s 2030 plan”he pointed out.