Outside of government, space has traditionally been the domain of large, well-established entities. VOX Space is looking to change that. A wholly-owned subsidiary of Virgin Orbit, the company offers a new approach to launching satellites in support of the defense and intelligence communities.
Jeff Trauberman, vice president of government affairs, said now is the perfect time for a startup to get into the space game.
“Over the past few years, we have seen billions of dollars in new investments made in very innovative products and services,” he said. VOX Space is working to capitalize on this momentum.
Its core offering is an innovative and flexible satellite delivery system developed with private funds, which Trauberman says fits well with a number of key national priorities. Rather than relying on complex and expensive ground launches, the company attaches a 70-foot rocket under the wing of a 747 aircraft. This rocket in turn puts satellites into orbit.
Highly flexible and mobile, the system can serve a wide range of potential clients, said Trauberman, who chairs the Washington Exec Space Council. The challenge is to gain support for a still relatively new idea.
“We think there is a clear role for that, but when you bring something really new and revolutionary to the market, sometimes there is a bit of a lag,” he said. “People may not be prepared for it. “
How to best overcome this initial ignorance? In space, nothing succeeds like success.
“You have to prove that you can do it,” Trauberman said. “In our case, we’ve launched twice this year, once for NASA and once for the Department of Defense, and both missions have been very successful. We are part of this relatively small club of people who have really demonstrated these abilities. “
As he examines the landscape of potential end users, Trauberman said his company’s offering could be particularly attractive to the US national security community. The ability to launch anytime from an aircraft, anywhere, with very short notice and with minimal or no warning has many benefits for space replenishment, space increase and resilience from space.
With space now a contested area, “responsive launch” and “responsive space” – which do not depend on traditional fixed launch sites – have many advantages in dealing with threats from peer adversaries. The ability to deploy space systems from any 747 compatible airfield also complicates the calculation of a potential adversary involving US and Allied operations.
The mobile launch system is also attractive to countries with a strong interest in space, but may lack the means to get there.
“There are a lot of countries that have indigenous space programs, but few countries actually have their own infrastructure and launch facilities,” Trauberman said.
“We can offer them a mobile space program: they can launch a satellite from their sovereign territory and then move on to the next mission,” he added. “We’re actually going to launch outside of the UK next year. It is a very advanced country in terms of space capabilities, they have built satellites, but they do not have a local launch program. So it’s a perfect collaboration.
The success of VOX Space has implications for the entire GovCon community, where there is a strong interest in supporting the government’s need for satellite intelligence.
“These smaller satellites can offer amazing capabilities,” he said. “For DOD, there are imaging satellites, communications satellites, domain knowledge satellites, and many other useful space missions. As a result, many companies are turning to small satellite technology. This created many more opportunities to work with the government in the space sector. “
A flexible and reliable launch could help push this sector even further – a potential victory for any GovCon seeking to support the government’s space aspirations.
Of course, the strong interest in the space sector also values talent. To that end, said Trauberman, VOX Space is working hard to position itself as an employer of choice.
“There is a lot of competition for talent due to the expansion of the space sector,” he said. “We are competitive by making this place a great place to work, and above all by empowering our employees. The best way to motivate people is to let them do their jobs without a lot of levels of oversight and micro-management. We have a great team at VOX Space and Virgin Orbit, with a mix of people who understand the industry and raw talent helping us step into this new era.
Empowered workers are the key to success in a company where every launch is an essential proposition.
“In this business, you’re only as good as your last successful launch, and it’s still a pretty risky operation,” Trauberman said. “It’s a business that demands great attention to detail every step of the way, and we set the highest standards for performance. We also recognize that every job is essential, no matter its size or size. We emphasize to employees that each person has an essential role to play. “
Trauberman, himself, joined the company three years ago, bringing with him a long-standing interest in space exploration.
“I worked for the rest of my career with Boeing, which was a great experience – working in space, intelligence, missile defense, cybersecurity, all kinds of programs related to the work I do now.” , did he declare. “Like many people who grew up in the 60s and 70s, I was also really captivated by the space program – the excitement, the sense of exploration and accomplishment.”
This feeling of unlimited possibility has never wavered.
“We have been to the moon, but there is so much more to explore and do, so many benefits that can be brought to humanity by exploring and using space,” he said. “I come to work every day really motivated by the excitement this industry provides. “