Megaconstellation startup E-Space expands leadership team

TAMPA, Fla. — E-Space has expanded its leadership team as the startup prepares to start serial production next year for a network of potentially hundreds of thousands of satellites.

The startup said Aug. 24 that Gunjan Murarka, chief financial officer of small satellite maker LeoStella, has taken the same role at E-Space.

Dalibor Djuran, a former director of satellite manufacturing at Earth observation operator Planet Labs, also joined E-Space as chief satellite systems engineer.

E-Space said they will help accelerate plans to develop a low Earth orbit (LEO) constellation of what the startup describes as “multi-application communication satellites.”

E-Space CFO Gunjan Murarka. Credit: E-Space

The constellation has spectrum filings backed by Rwanda for 300,000 satellites, which E-Space founder and CEO Greg Wyler says would have significantly smaller cross-sections than other LEO networks to reduce their environmental impact.

These dimensions, which have not been undisclosed, aim to reduce the chances of in-orbit collisions and debris resulting from them.

E-Space also hopes one day to use the constellation to capture and de-orbit debris that is currently too small to track. According to Wyler, this means it would ultimately have a net positive impact on the space environment.

The startup deployed its first three prototype satellites in May on a Rocket Lab Electron launch vehicle.

While Wyler declined to discuss features being tested on these prototypes, which are “very different” from its planned operational satellites, he said the launch validated a capability to deploy its satellites without a dispenser.

“We’ve tested our dispenser-less design and we can save about 10% of the mass [on a launch mission] by getting rid of the dispenser,” he said in an interview with SpaceNews.

This potentially enables E-Space to pack more satellites into a single rocket while giving the startup more launch flexibility.

“This is a major step forward because it allows for faster launches, it allows for faster production of the launcher, and reduce supply chain challenges,” he said.

E-Space plans to deploy an unspecified number of preproduction satellites on an undisclosed rocket for its next mission in the first half of 2023.

“We’re looking to get this next batch to be as close to [the production model] as possible, and validate certain major performance features,” he said.

The startup had planned to demonstrate features from its second batch of preproduction satellites in December.

“It will be ready when it’s ready,” Wyler added, “after that, we move into our first level of production.”

E-Space plans to build all its satellites in-house. Wyler, who declined to say how frequently the startup could churn out production satellites, has previous experience in setting up a high-volume satellite facility in Florida for OneWeb, the LEO broadband operator he founded.

None of E-Space’s early satellites will have a debris de-orbit capability that the venture plans to add to its constellation eventually.

Expanding the team

E-Space has hired about 60 employees and Wyler said it is on track to almost double that to 100 by the end of this year.

Murarka and Djuran will be based out of an office E-Space recently opened in Los Gatos, California.

The office is mostly focusing on developing software, Wyler said, while hardware manufacturing will “most likely” take place in facilities the startup is looking to expand in Toulouse, France.

Dalibor Djuran, E-Space chief satellite systems engineer. Credit: E-Space

Headquartered in Florida, E-Space also has smaller offices in Boston and Washington DC

E-Space announced $50 million in seed financing in February to fund operations up to serial satellite production next year.

Wyler said the startup’s decision to hire a chief financial officer to manage its finances does not mean another funding is imminent.

“There are a lot of activities that are ongoing in different groups and in different parts of the world,” he said, “and somebody needs to track and manage all that, as well as of course the continuous internal management of our finances and our future.

“And so the CFO will be helpful for that as well as funding or managing investors as and when the time comes.”

He said E-Space has “quite a lot of interest on the investment side,” but “it’s not something we need right now.”

In addition to founding OneWeb, Wyler also founded the O3b Networks, the medium Earth orbit broadband constellation now owned by SES.

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