Solar System Communications: Kelly Larson on Aquarian's mission, Wi-Fi for the Moon, and early-stage space startups
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We have a rare Wednesday release of the Pathfinder podcast, but we promise the wait was worth it.
Joining us today is Kelly Larson, who’s the CEO of Aquarian Space. The Boulder, Colorado startup is building “internet for the solar system.” Or, to get a bit more technical, Aquarian is developing a communications network for interplanetary exploration. In March, Aquarian announced it had raised $650,000 in seed funding to get to work on its solar system internet. Draper Associates led the seed round, which is especially notable because Draper was an early investor in SpaceX.
Today's episode is brought to you by SpiderOak Mission Systems, an industry leader in space cybersecurity. Check them out at https://spideroak-ms.com/ and download the new NSR/SpiderOak sponsored whitepaper, titled “Space Cybersecurity – Current State and Future Needs,” at www.spacecyber.com
For starters, we get a status report on what Aquarian’s been up to over the last six months. But there’s plenty more on tap, such as:
- How Kelly landed at Aquarian, with a serial entrepreneur background and non-space resume
- NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) and new opportunities with today’s technology
- Going to market with CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) rovers and landers
- What a lunar Wi-Fi network will look like and its first applications
- The capital required for the initial network buildout
- Is Kelly worried about aliens free-loading on Aquarian’s Wi-Fi?
…and more! Come for the above topics, stay for ever-so-brief discussions of yoga and astrology (Ryan’s totally unbiased opinion: Aquarians rule).
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0:00 - Introduction
2:32 - Kelly’s love for space began when she grew up on a farm and was able to look up at the stars
6:49 - “Farm girl turned yoga entrepreneur turned space CEO.” The transformation that brought Kelly to the space industry
11:08 - Kelly’s take on joining Aquarian
13:24 - What problems is Aquarian setting out to solve? How are they approaching these issues?
18:14 - Aquarian’s launch strategy for their communications networks and the growing lunar economy
24:36 - What will Aquarian’s constellation look like? Kelly discusses the need to bring reliable service to Aquarian’s customers
29:11 - Eating the humble pie: how Kelly went about fundraising and pitching in the first round
34:46 - Space camps and mentorship
37:42 - Are there common backgrounds in the technical team at Aquarian?
41:33 - The logistics of being a space startup distributed across the US
45:14 - Kelly’s hottest take, or most contrarian view, of space
46:40 - Who are Kelly’s role models in the space industry? Will Kelly go to space one day?
51:33 - The concern for extraterrestrial life and having advanced network systems in space