Aaron Pressman 2019年04月03日



MIT has been holding its entrepreneur-focused New Space Age Conference for four years, and it’s notable how quickly things have changed. For one, the first iteration fit in a smaller room and lacked the giant and delicious mid-morning doughnuts supplied for the 2019 conference. But more importantly, the focus has shifted in two ways.



衛星入軌成本的大幅降低將讓數十乃至數百家新初創企業拿到用于開展業務的資金,繼而啟動新一輪的太空競賽。Starburst Aerospace Accelerator的執行合伙人范·厄斯帕博迪可能沒有意識到其聲明的戲劇性色彩:“十年前,來自于洛克希德和波音的高管會來這里參會。”(當時僅有三個,范·厄斯帕博迪。)


令人印象最為深刻的首席執行官莫過于HawkEye 360的約翰·瑟拉非尼,該公司將發射多枚衛星,跟蹤地面的各類無線電波信號。他解釋道,公司的衛星可以幫助阻止“海事環境中的危險分子”從事數十億美元的“負面外部活動”。什么?他們要去捉海盜!




Way back in 2016, Boeing was the big incumbent, the company that had dominated the space economy for decades, offering its wisdom to all the startups and would-be startups in the audience. But Naveed Hussain, who headed the company’s R&D skunkworks, sounded a bit defensive as he insisted: “We are ready to compete.” Portentously, just the day before the conference, Elon Musk’s SpaceX landed one of its reusable rockets on a barge floating at sea. In hindsight, it’s obvious that a changing of the guard had occurred.

At this year’s New Space Age conference, SpaceX was the big incumbent and its rocket technology has now moved from the demonstration stage to the workman-like commercial phase.

Shattering the cost of putting satellites in orbit has allowed dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of new startups to attract funding and go into business, kicking off a new space race. Van Espahbodi, managing partner of the Starburst Aerospace Accelerator funding many of those startups, may not have realized the irony of his statement that “ten years ago there would have been executives from Lockheed and Boeing in this room.” (It was only three, Van.)

But Espahbodi also sounded another common refrain from the 2019 edition of the conference, one that marks the second shift from 2016. While back then startups were still trying to figure out how to woo Silicon Valley, now it seems they may have succeeded too well. Espahbodi worried that too much money may have flowed into too many startups all chasing the same few satellite opportunities. “There’s lots of not so smart money out there,” he quipped.

The most impressive CEO on stage may have been John Serafini from HawkEye 360, which is launching satellites to track all manner of radio frequency signals on the ground. The company’s satellites could help stop “bad actors in a maritime environment” from creating billions of dollars of “negative externalities,” he explained. What? They’re going to catch pirates!

Aside from the excess financing chasing too few ideas, Julien Cantegreil, the CEO of SpaceAble, offered a unique reason why startups in the space market may start crashing out–literally. There’s actually a limit to how many satellites can go into orbit before debris and collisions become a big problem. “We cannot continue to send more objects to space,” he warned. “At some point we need to stop and think about the low earth (orbital) environment.” Hopefully there won’t be any actual examples of that problem to discuss at next year’s conference.