A platform for developers meant for the sky? This is the goal of OurSky, a firm established in the previous year to facilitate the accessibility of space observational data through the utilization of a software platform and a worldwide telescope network.
The firm announced that it had successfully secured seed investment for $9.5 million, with Oceans Ventures, Venrex Investment Management, Marlinspike Partners, and Embedded Ventures serving as the lead investors. The funding was disclosed further to speed up the deployment of scopes and the developer platform.
Dan Roelker, CEO and co-founder of OurSky compared the company to Amazon Web Services (AWS) for developers or the web3 development platform Alchemy. He said, “Alchemy [provided] this platform that was really easy for developers to get the data and process it the way they needed to without standing up their own, in our case, telescope network.” It’s not easy to accomplish that. Because of this, everything has been abstracted away, and all you have to do is inform and program the OurSky platform to obtain the data and process it as you like.
Notably, the firm asserts it is a contemporary and less expensive alternative to current affairs. It provides development tools and open application programming interfaces (APIs) that can be utilized by businesses ranging from satellite operators to space situational awareness startups.
At the beginning of October 2022, Roelker and Alex Hawkinson, a serial entrepreneur in technology, established OurSky. The fact that Roelker and his family relocated to a neighborhood outside of Washington, District of Columbia, during the pandemic and that one of their neighbors turned out to be Hawkinson is almost as if it were predetermined.
Hawkinson is the founder of enterprises and an enthusiastic amateur astronomer. Almost immediately, he and Roelker concluded that there was an urgent need for a developer platform capable of gaining access to and analyzing real-time data about space objects.
The two of them immediately began their job. Roelker has spent his whole career working in the software industry. His background includes establishing many reverse-engineering hacker groups, which companies like BAE Systems and Raytheon subsequently bought. Additionally, he served as the Vice President of Software Engineering at SpaceX from 2015 to 2019, and then he joined OpenSea as the Vice President of Engineering for the NFT marketplace.
His contributions to SpaceX included work on the Falcon, Falcon Heavy, Dragon, and Starship programs. The firm employed him for a period that was very significant for the company.
“We had just blown up a rocket with CRS-7 when I joined SpaceX,” he recalled. “It was a very exciting time.” It was effectively the launch that would determine whether or not SpaceX would be successful. […] I stayed there for four years, and during that period, I experienced every stage of the lifecycle, so it was a wonderful and exciting time. The first time we successfully landed a rocket was the first launch with me at the helm of the flight software for the Falcon Space Launch System.
OurSky is working to overcome various obstacles, including constructing the most excellent telescope network for the planet. The network is comprised of three different sources: scopes that OurSky owns and deploys, scopes that are obtained from the professional, amateur community (think of individuals who have incredibly competent telescopes that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars), and scopes that are sourced from the far broader amateur community.
The company, situated in Los Angeles, California, already has thirty scopes under ownership placed in nine different sites across the world. Additionally, it has onboarded around 35 amateur astronomers on its network. It employs various incentives to get amateurs to join the platform. Roelker clarified that OurSky is not attempting to “monetize” the amateur community. Among these incentives is free access to skills that would otherwise be difficult and time-consuming for astronomers, such as image stacking.
Roelker stated that the maintenance expenses of telescopes are pretty high, so OurSky does not want to purchase many telescopes with the current round of funding. Instead, the company intends to connect to preexisting infrastructure to construct a communal network. OurSky will not be burdened with cumbersome gear in this manner.
There is no question that we will purchase telescopes, and we have already done so; nevertheless, this will not be the majority of the funds. Most of the funds are being allocated to the development of the software platform so that it can cater to a wide range of requirements, including those about scientific, commercial, defense, and consumer applications for space observation.
The firm has expanded to fifteen employees and will increase to twenty employees within the next six months. According to Roelker, this incremental expansion is a component of OurSky’s bigger plan to carefully manage money to maintain pace with how the industry grows over the next year or two.
We want to ensure we make the most of this investment by setting aside a slightly longer period. […] I believe that the most important thing is that we must be efficient with our money, not just in terms of how we construct a network but also in terms of the longer periods that we are considering here to be able to adapt to the changing market over the next year or two. We needed to ensure that we could keep up with that change and had sufficient money.