The Rocket Science Behind a Space Startup

Lauren Yoshida
4 min readJan 1, 2019

Elon Musk once said

“Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”

Let’s face it since technology has started to exponentially grow, the innovation in the space industry has not.

MLA and I after an amazing afternoon

Through the Creative Destruction Lab, (aka CDL) I shadowed Michael López-Alegría (aka MLA) in the new space stream. For those who don’t know; he is four-time astronaut, who now works as a consultant (that’s a really shorten bio). After discovering my curiosity for space; everything from rockets and space elevators to sustainability on Mars I wanted to learn more and so I did.

Sitting in a room with people who have spent years and years of their life understanding this concept and to interact with people trying to make their ideas a reality was an amazing learning opportunity.

After observing the session I realized being a startup takes a lot of work and being a space startup take even more for the following reasons:

  1. Enough funding is hard to find. Other than NASA, huge sums of money are not being given for innovation in the space industry. This makes it hard for these companies to do ambitious things, especially when operational costs tend to be very high. (You can’t just decide to launch a rocket to space)
  2. You have to think about everything. (I mean EVERYTHING.) Living on earth we don’t think about every single little thing that could go wrong. When I sat through meetings with some of the startups, information such as the mass, the acceleration when landing, the dimensions… were needed and most could not answer those questions. When thinking about space, things need to be thought through because its easy for problems to arise.
  3. Simulating, Testing and Launching. You can’t just launch random objects into the sky, if we could there would be a lot more problems. To find environments that simulate space are hard to find, in addition you need permits and space to launch anything up into space.

After discovering that startup founders come from all different backgrounds, there are important parts points to remember when growing your seed stage company into something bigger.

  1. The art of storytelling. Tell a story, give your points some context. It’s more entertaining to listen to as well as more engaging.
  2. Commitment. It’s hard for someone to give thousands or millions of dollars if you don’t believe in your company because they won’t either. Venture capitalist and lead investors wants to see a committed CEO that has quit their job and has their entire focus on their company.
  3. Don’t get caught with just buzzwords. Before you use buzzwords understand the concept. Then make sure it’s something you want to relate and integrate into your company. I witnessed many conversations one particularly about the possible idea of leveraging blockchain technology. And it’s hard when that should not be one of their priorites.
  4. MVE, MVE, MVE. Minimum Viable Experience, essentially the prototype. This is a crucial component of a company especially ones looking for less investors. Since it is hard to get money for something that has little or no thought gone into it.
  5. Hiring costs. Startups are often needing cash and there main reason why they are burning money is because of the costs of hiring. That is the reason why so many companies are so small and have people doing many tasks.

4 Important Things to Keep in mind to become an Astronaut and the best version of yourself

In addition, I got to talk to Chris Hadfield. He gave some friends and I guidance on what we need to keep in mind to become the best versions of yourself to then become astronauts. Here are his 4 points:

  1. Stay healthy and fit. This does not mean go on a diet and become vegan (yeah, I know I am not giving up my meats). You have a gut to help digest food, your molars are there to chomp food and your front teeth are there to shear food. Be logical, our bodies are designed to have them so you should use them.
  2. The importance of decision making. Decision making gives the opportunity to take control of your life (yes, you can decide pretty much anything and everything that goes on in it). Start by making constant small decisions to do something and own it.
  3. Love what you do. It isn’t logical to do something you don’t enjoy and if you have to learn to love it (or at least some part of it). The point is it’s important that you stay interested and curious. Find the passion for whatever you choose to pursue.
  4. Become a life long learner. With technology advancing faster then ever it is so important that you are committed to learning because it truly never stops (I am not saying you have to go back to school). Whether its learning how to use new software or to learn a new coding language our world will not stop growing so you better hop on board and keep learning.

Big Shoutout to TKS and CDL for giving me this opportunity. As well as Ani who organized bringing high school girls into CDL and Michael López-Alegría who I got to shadow.

Thanks for reading!

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Lauren Yoshida

Innovator, Developer, Founder of Photome Labs, Space Enthusiast