In anticipation of the European Angel Investment Summit 2023 (#EAIS23), we had the privilege of sitting down with astronaut and keynote speaker Christer Fuglesang. As the first Swedish citizen in space, a physicist, and an advocate for space exploration and investment, Fuglesang shared insights into his remarkable journey and the exciting opportunities in the world of angel investing within the space tech sector.
A Journey from Particle Physics to Space
Christer Fuglesang’s career trajectory is nothing short of extraordinary. He began as an experimental particle physicist at CERN in the late ’80s and early ’90s. However, his life took a cosmic turn when he saw an ad in the newspaper from the European Space Agency (ESA) looking for astronauts. This opportunity proved irresistible, leading to Fuglesang’s selection as one of only 6 new astronauts in 1992.
After years of rigorous training in Germany, Russia, and the United States, Fuglesang finally realized his dream of space travel in 2006. Subsequently, in 2009, he embarked on a mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery to the International Space Station (ISS), where he participated in additional spacewalks, reaching 5 in total, to assemble and maintain the station. Fuglesang’s unique journey from particle physics to space illustrates the diverse backgrounds that can contribute to the space industry.
The Changing Landscape of Space Investment
Fuglesang also highlighted the evolving landscape of space investment. Traditionally, space exploration was dominated by large government projects, but the game is changing. Private companies are increasingly entering the sector, offering services such as satellite launches and communication infrastructure. This shift from government-centric to a more commercial space industry is creating exciting opportunities for startups and angel investors alike.
Moreover, government procurement practices have evolved. Agencies like NASA are now interested in procuring services rather than developing everything in-house. This change opens doors for smaller players in the space tech arena. Fuglesang emphasized that the decreasing cost of launching satellites, coupled with advancements in satellite technology, is further catalyzing growth in the industry.
Space Tech Ventures: Where to Invest?
When asked about specific areas for space tech investment, Fuglesang pointed out several promising avenues:
- Satellite Development: Building small, capable satellites is a lucrative venture. Examples like Planet Labs, which deploys small satellites for Earth observation, demonstrate the potential for generating income in this sector.
- Data Analysis: Fuglesang stressed the importance of extracting intelligence from space data and developing products that leverage this information. Space-derived data can be applied in various industries, much like app development for smartphones.
- Moon and Asteroids: A visionary frontier, the moon and asteroids offer significant potential for future activities. Private companies are already exploring opportunities such as lunar landings and establishing communication networks.
Balancing Investment and Development
One of the critical challenges for space tech entrepreneurs is striking a balance between securing investment and advancing their technologies. Fuglesang advised taking a step-by-step approach, whenever possible, to showcase progress to potential investors. Demonstrating trustworthiness and the ability to generate income incrementally can attract more substantial investments as the company grows.
The Role of Education Centers
As an educator at the Institute of Technology in Sweden, Fuglesang believes universities and research centers should facilitate the growth of space tech entrepreneurs. These institutions should provide incubation facilities, funding opportunities, and mentorship programs to support budding space tech startups.
Furthermore, Fuglesang stressed the importance of incorporating space-related topics into various educational programs. Understanding how space technology can benefit different sectors, such as architecture, agriculture, and infrastructure, is vital for preparing the next generation of entrepreneurs and professionals.
The Future of Space Tech
In discussing the future of space tech, Fuglesang predicted several groundbreaking technologies:
- Enhanced Satellite Technology: Satellites with onboard machine learning capabilities will enable faster data analysis and local decision-making, reducing the reliance on ground stations.
- Affordable Space Launches: The continued reduction in launch costs, spearheaded by companies like SpaceX, will make space more accessible to a broader range of entrepreneurs.
- Space-Based Solar Arrays: Large solar arrays in space that convert sunlight into microwave or laser beams for Earth-based power generation could revolutionize our energy supply systems.
Climate Change Mitigation Through Space
Fuglesang’s keynote at #EAIS23 will delve into the innovative concept of using space technology to address climate change. He proposed deploying sunshades at Lagrange Point 1, which could moderate Earth’s temperature by blocking a fraction of sunlight. This technology serves as an insurance policy to combat climate change if conventional efforts fall short. Join us at the Summit to hear it from the man himself: https://europeanangelsummit.com/tickets/
Christer Fuglesang’s journey from particle physics to space and his dedication to promoting space exploration and investment inspire us to embrace the limitless possibilities of the space tech industry. As startups and entrepreneurs flock to this burgeoning sector, the European Angel Investment Summit 2023 promises to be a platform for exploring these opportunities and shaping the future of space technology.
Watch the full interview: