The success of the SATELLITE exhibition and conference is very much dependent on the health of our entire industry. To be a healthy industry, we need both thriving legacy organizations and an abundance of entrepreneurships. The satellite community thrives when a pipeline of new ideas remains open and free-flowing. Otherwise, we risk stagnation, and the creation of new talent gaps. To ensure that SATELLITE provides attendees from new emerging companies with both valuable exposure and guidance in developing their business strategies, the event launched its Startup Space Entrepreneur Pitch Contest in 2017. In just two years, the competition has become one of the most popular and beloved events at SATELLITE.
Taking place in the middle of the exhibit hall floor throughout an entire day of the show, 14 entrepreneurs compete for a prize package including guaranteed private pitch meetings with participating investment firms, free all-access passes to the SATELLITE 2020, a trophy, and this Via Satellite interview.
Each contestant is given five minutes to pitch their business and technology ideas to a panel of highly accomplished space professionals, investors, thought leaders, and fellow entrepreneurs. Contestants are placed into two groups. The first group comprises of companies seeking initial or seed funding, and the second group of companies seeking additional or Series A funding. The pitches are followed by a question and answer session with the judges’ panel, who then score the presentations based on a standardized set of various categories. The contestant with the highest overall score in each of the two groups is named the winner at the Via Satellite Awards Luncheon, which takes place the following day.
This year’s Startup Space Seed group winner almost didn’t make it to the competition due to issues acquiring a Visa. Pavel Razmajev, COO of TimeTag.Space, was actually the third representative of his company to attempt the trip to Washington, D.C. Fortunately for him and his company, he was able to participate in the competition and win the Seed Group with fantastic scores across the board.
TimeTag.Space is a time tagging and synchronization company based in Latvia, focusing on enhancing the functionality of satellites and other spacecraft. Its space-grade Time-of-Flight (TOF) technology aims to provide extreme accuracy single-shot measurements for space LiDAR and 3D altimetry. The company also designs its solutions to be adjustable for data transfer and time synchronization for satellite constellations, which replaces the more common atomic clocks.
“We put all of these functions in one device, to allow for minimization of costs and weight, increase payload options and significantly increase satellite performance,” the company says at the very top of its mission statement.
TimeTag.Space is targeting owners and producers of satellite constellations, suppliers of subsystems, and producers of single-satellite systems such as universities, other startups, research projects, and specific space missions. Razmajev says the company is open for different types of collaboration including smaller projects or individual missions, where a combination of current industrial and scientific knowledge can be combined with partners to develop additional features that can be introduced to commercial space.
The company is currently partnered with Maxar, which is going to use its technology for Moon landing altimetry purposes for the “Luna-27” mission. Maxar also purchased two space timer licenses from TimeTag.Space for the “Space Drone” commercial mission with Effective Space. The startup is also engaged in a technology partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA).
Via Satellite spoke with Razmajev shortly after he discovered that he won the Startup Space competition. We talked about the origin of the company, its short- and long-term ambitions, and his experience at the SATELLITE 2019 conference.
VIA SATELLITE: What inspired the spin-off and creation of TimeTag?
Razmajev: TimeTag.Space was created as a spin-off from Eventech in 2019, as it was decided to split directions for space and ground segments and to have the whole team devoted to space as a stand-alone company. We believe that space is the future for our technology. Also, we decided, that in order to attract attention, we would need a name which could speak for itself. That is how TimeTag.Space was established.
VIA SATELLITE: Why is time synchronization in space so important for satellite and spacecraft operators?
Razmajev: Not only synchronization, but timing, timekeeping, and time tagging is important for satellite and spacecraft operators and the more precise it is, the better all the systems will work with less chances to fail.
Can you imagine making an appointment with a friend or colleague at specific time, while your clocks are not synchronized? Both of you can come on time and still not meet each other, and this might have different consequences. The same can happen in space, where satellites will need to communicate, also in order to meet/avoid each other. This is why precise synchronization and timekeeping is critical in space, where everything is happening thousand times faster. Making estimations and calculations based on unprecise data can lead to a mistake worth millions.
Timing technologies are required in many different systems and not only for synchronization and timekeeping, but also, for example, for LIDARs, altimetry (distance measurements between satellites or satellite and other object/surface), satellite laser/optical communication, navigation, landing systems, etc.
VIA SATELLITE: What are some of the earliest challenges you faced in establishing TimeTag.Space?
Razmajev: Our first challenge was to understand the market as well as needs and wants of the industry because, unfortunately, some players in the space industry are quite secretive and it might take a lot of time in order to find the right person — an expert or a company — which can help or be a partner. I fully understand that people do not want to disclose proprietary knowledge, but usually it is not even required. If you work in the space industry and you are reading this article — please, be more open and help other companies if you are able to. Because, I believe, only working together we will be able to settle the Moon and Mars. We are always open to assist and work together in order to build our future.
VIA SATELLITE: What feedback have you received from your initial customers/investors?
Razmajev: First of all, for our space timer development we attracted European Space Agency’s (ESA) funds in 2016. And in 2017, the Agency made a market research for its moon mission “Luna-27”, because they had a problem of finding the right timer for the LiDAR system, which MDA U.K. (that time Neptec U.K.) company was developing for them. It appeared that only our timer could meet all the requirements. ESA and MDA UK inspected our technology and gave a positive feedback by inviting us into their mission. Later, while working under Lunda-27 mission, MDA U.K. received a contract for the SPACE DRONE mission, where they also decided to use our timer for their system. For us it’s a huge victory, as one of the leading companies is using our technology. This puts us into the technology leader’s position, as no one else in the world has similar space level technology to meet the existing requirements and needs.
VIA SATELLITE: Is your target market global, or regionally focused? If regional, do you have any plans to expand this market?
Razmajev: Definitely our market is global and our goal is to work with companies from all over the world. Our main idea is to create a global standard of timing and time tagging. For this reason, there should be no boundaries for us.
VIA SATELLITE: What expectations did you have going into the Startup Space competition?
Razmajev: Our expectations were that I would compete among other world class companies, and it was exactly like that. My main goal for this competition was to raise awareness — to show and to share with people that there is a great technology in Latvia and that we are ready to cooperate and to build great products together.
VIA SATELLITE: Describe your experience in the competition?
Razmajev: I was overwhelmed and excited by the most unique presenting opportunity so far. I had a feeling that my life was at stake, even though it was not my first competition in life, but probably the most important one. I am sure this is only the beginning for TimeTag.Space.
VIA SATELLITE: Did it surprise you to find out that you won?
Razmajev: Yes, yes, and one more time — yes. I was thrilled and honored that the world-class experts jury made their choice to recognize the uniqueness of TimeTag.Space technology and our vision to change the way time is currently used in space. It was a true pleasure to be on stage and to learn from all the contestants. The event would not be possible without them. I hope our victory can set an example to other smaller space companies with unique technologies from all over the world to claim their deserved attention and interest from the audience at the global space arena.
VIA SATELLITE: Outside of the competition, did you meet any other interested customers/investors at SATELLITE?
Razmajev: I met people about whom I was reading news, and this was incredible. Now, I hope, they will reply to my emails! But, to be honest, a lot of great companies and people, priceless contacts and knowledge. We have already planned technical calls and meetings with people whom I have met on SATELLITE 2019.
VIA SATELLITE: What are TimeTag's major milestones for the upcoming year? What are your goals?
Razmajev: Our major milestone is to sign a contract with Satellite Constellation Prime for our system integration. We believe that our system can improve overall performance of satellite as well as reduce overall weight, collision, loss, and damage in space. Also, we are planning to start miniaturization project, as we have already received confirmation from the European Space Agency for that, and, of course, improving and developing new altimetry, navigation, and LiDAR systems with our partners. VS
Via Satellite will be interviewing the Startup Space 2019 Series A winner, Daniel Faber, CEO and Founder of space-based gas refueling station builder Orbit Fab, in an upcoming episode of On Orbit, our brand new, bi-weekly podcast. To listen to this interview, visit viasatellite.com/podcast, or search for “On Orbit Podcast” on iTunes, Google Play, SoundCloud, or any major podcast outlet. Follow On Orbit on Twitter @OnOrbitPodcast.