How This AI Company Is Working to Transform Space Exploration in an Age of Global Pandemic
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In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you and what is your business?
I'm Ben Lamm, a serial technology entrepreneur who builds intelligent and transformative businesses. I am currently the founder and CEO of Hypergiant, a next-gen AI and defense company.
The Air Force will be using your new HIVE AI software to allow them to control satellites from a cell phone. What led you to that innovation?
Satellite infrastructure is antiquated. There are old systems in place that make it extremely vulnerable to attack and also challenging to maintain continuity of operations in the face of terrestrial struggles like pandemics. When we built HIVE we did it to help the US Air Force and others build internal resilience particularly for moments like a pandemic or natural disaster where there are limitations on the movement of individuals into secure facilities. Now, with increased mobility, satellite operators are better able to monitor and operate their satellites from anywhere at any time. It’s about creating a more dynamic integration between the technology we need now and where we need it.
What impact do you think the pandemic will have on our approach to business in space?
The pandemic highlights the need for more flexible infrastructure in the space industry. Most things are currently centralized on-premise. However, to ensure future resilience we need to be able to work off-premise. As a result, we are seeing an increased demand for mobile technology and remote software that allows for operations to continue running.
SpaceX’s launch during the pandemic highlighted the continued advancements in space by watching a private company for the first time launch someone into space. This is good and exciting and Elon has been behind some long-term visionary work. However, we also must look at space from the lens we see the world in today. We don’t have global solutions to the pandemic and we don’t have global solutions to anything in space. To make space more resilient in the future, we need to figure out problems here on earth.
You’re a proponent of “space sustainability.” Can you explain what that means?
The space around the Earth is a finite resource and if we destroy it we destroy the ability to do further space research and exploration. There are a few big problems in the space sustainability category: space junk, being the primary issue, but then the question of sustainability is about the increasing complexity of space operations, the emergence of large constellations and the increased risks of collision and interference with the operation of space objects.
We are doing a number of things to look at and address questions around space sustainability. Leveraging space assets for multiple use cases and longer life will be key. For example, our Slingshot deployer leverages the Cygnus spacecraft before it deorbits to run science experiments and launch satellites above the International Space Station. This is an asset that will just burn up in the atmosphere. We are not extending the life and use of the spacecraft to get more uses out of it before its demise. We are also actively researching other technologies on Earth that will have applications in space to help create a more sustainable planet and solar system. Our EOS Bioreactor we invented to leverage algae, robotics, and AI to fight climate change on Earth is being considered for use on the International Space Station and in future space missions to sequester carbon and do CO2 scrubbing.
You created an interactive simulation to show the impact that the pandemic has had on climate change – what did you find and what does it tell us about the future?
Our ACES simulator helps people understand how the current quarantine is truly impacting cumulative carbon emissions. There was misleading news about the impact that the shutdown was having on climate change and the world. While we are seeing some great impact, it doesn’t solve the cumulative carbon problem. We wanted to make sure that people understood that fact and also understand what is needed in the future to combat climate change and make a long-term lasting effect. The tool is a visualization that helps to represent what is possible if we make various changes. As we continue to incorporate other data sources into our modeling, we can get a much clearer view of what we must do in the future and help others understand too. This will help both legislative officials and everyday humans. I think it also shows the path forward for entrepreneurs: investing in cleantech and other fossil fuels alternatives is just the right thing for people to do. Applying AI and other emerging technologies to the equation makes understanding and evaluating the data even faster and potentially impactful.
What do space entrepreneurs need to know about how to stand out in the market right now?
There is a ton of opportunity to innovate especially as the government increases funding and focuses on geo, lunar, and martian opportunities. This means more space options, more business opportunities and more room for innovation and invention. That includes opportunities for both software and hardware technology businesses but also everyone: food in space, trash removal in space, fabrics for space, medicine designed in space, tourism in space, and more. The more we do in space, the more opportunities there are for supporting businesses that help those activities happen. Just join the market and you’ll find sub-categories that are just opening up. As a friend and Hypergiant advisor Bill Nye loves to say, “Space brings out the best in us”.