Orbitare, a data transport firm offering satellite communications for regular people, opened its Luxembourg offices at the start of the pandemic. Director Luis Muñoz explains how the hardest year of his life is now paying off.
“Any time lost and the opportunity is gone,” Luis Muñoz explains of his urgency to establish operations in Luxembourg. Fuelled by concern that a cash-rich Silicon Valley firm would pit him to the post, Muñoz also wanted to maintain credibility with the Luxembourg government and ESA, which supported Orbitare’s Spaceloop technology through the LuxImpulse programme.
In what was the toughest time in his 25-year space career, in 2020 the aerospace engineer battled border closures to register the company and recruit staff. Within nine months of securing office space at Technoport, the firm landed a deal with space tech firm Spire to operate a satellite and showcase its Spaceloop technology in space with two demonstration missions.
Orbitare is targeting two segments of the consumer satellite communications market: the social user, who want to be ablet to access social media and email in places where there is no internet connectivity for instance when sailing, and safety users, for whom the technology could be lifesaving.
“[…] make space accessible to everyone. Spaceloop is one step for accomplishing my vision.”
The latter application evolved when Muñoz and his team approached the Swiss Alpine Club, whose members complained of losing connection on Enigma satellite phones each time they went to the north face of a mountain. Orbitare tweaked its Spaceloop technology to accelerate the response time and in future plans to work with the Swiss Alpine Club to reach the members of the Alpine Clubs of other countries, including Germany, France, Italy, Austria and Slovenia.
“Every year in the Alps, 1,500 people die in accidents,” he says, adding. “Saving one would already be a good return on investment.”
Muñoz believes that as of yet, the market for satellite communications for private individuals remains largely untapped. And he sees potential to develop the safety technology to other nations, like Norway.
A keen sailor whose entire career has been in space technology working for Airbus Spain and then RUAG Space, Muñoz quit a secure job to establish Orbitare in Switzerland in 2017. His motivation, he says, is to pay forward what society invested in him while his vision is to “make space accessible to everyone. Spaceloop is one step for accomplishing my vision.”
Looking back, he says that the transition from institutional space tech to newspace has been a sharp learning curve. But, he considers it validation that Orbitare was selected for Horizon 2020 EIC SME Instrument, a highly competitive programme with a 10% success rate for applicants. “That gave use the confirmation that we were on the right path,” Muñoz says.
In 2022, the director says the focus will be on raising finance. Orbitare is currently in talks with traditional investors and industrial partners and is exploring by a not for profit, community-funded approach.
This article was first published in the Silicon Luxembourg magazine. Read the full digital version of the magazine on our website, here. You can also choose to receive a hard copy at the office or at home. Subscribe now.