With several major entrepreneurs and companies looking into the exploring the final frontier that is space, it can be easy to forget that even those without millions of dollars at their disposal can still make that great leap.
It's not often that we have the chance to talk about one of our Founder Institute graduate companies working in the space industry. The exception to this Atomos Nuclear, a Denver-based startup that develops nuclear-powered spacecraft for in-space transportation services to orbiting satellites.
A Graduate of the Denver Founder Institute, we're happy to see what this company make so much progress in their mission of literally reaching for the heavens in bringing life to a little realized niche: space entrepreneurship.
Vanessa Clark's Scientific Background
Vanessa's background in aeronautics goes back a number of years, and not just here in Denver where Atomos has its base. After graduating with a degree in aerospace engineering and management, she worked as a research engineer in Germany's Airbus Defense and Space and DLR from 2011-2015. It was here where she gained significant experience working with spacecraft propulsion and designing space missions.
Once leaving there, she came to the Denver area to work for Lockheed Martin as a propulsion engineer and manager. Over the last several years, she's worked her way up to developing spacecraft propulsion systems for NASA, among others.
Vanessa is joined by her co-founders, Brandon Seifert, who’s also the company’s Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer, and William L. Kowalski, Jr., who doubles as Atomos Nuclear’s Chief Financial Officer. A space entrepreneur with a background in high-tech startups, Brandon has served as a Commercial Business Development and Sales Manager at ColdQuanta and Executive Coordinator at Advanced Space. Specializing in data science and financial analysis, William served as a Financial Advisor at the Millstone Evans Group of Raymond James prior to joining Atomos Nuclear.
A Look into Atomos' Goals
As the Atomos site says, nuclear fission systems have high power densities and long service lives. As a result, this technology increases available electric power for spacecraft to use when traveling in space.
Vanessa's company is still in the process of developing an optimized in-space transportation network to provide higher energy capability for longer operational lifetimes. Through their nuclear reactors, spacecraft like satellites can scale high power levels going beyond what's capable when using solar panels.
Finding electrical power in space is already a challenging process. Most spacecraft use multiple solar panels to bring a fraction of the power Atomos's reactors can bring. One of the objectives here is to help advance space missions doing space mining and manufacturing.
Check out the video below to see Vanessa pitch her company at our recent Female Demo Day:
The Future of Deep-Space Missions
With planned journeys into deep space to discover more about our universe, Vanessa's company is going to do a considerable amount in helping power these missions.
Transfer times for these space travels are known for being extra long, which would make it tougher for human astronauts to endure.
The nuclear electric propulsion architecture from Atomos would bring faster transfers for long-duration space missions, bringing a profound way in how far humans could travel into space.
While it still seems like sci-fi to imagine humans venturing into deep space, we're very proud to see Vanessa's company making this more realistic. Since nuclear fission power and propulsion systems still haven't been fully implemented by NASA, Atomos is pushing ahead to turn it into a reality before the Russians beat us to it.
What's Next for Atomos?
Founded only ten months ago, Vanessa's company is still fairly small and listed as having only 2-10 employees. Atomos obviously has a strong future, even if NASA still keeps touting their investigation and use of nuclear-powered space missions.
With Vanessa's push to make this truly happen, the coming decade is going to place Atomos at an important place in space history. Thanks to having a significant social media presence, they'll hopefully gain more investment support. Atomos currently has an email address for information related to investing in the company.
Click here for more information on Atomos Nuclear, or click here to learn more about the Denver Founder Institute.