Author: Carlos M. Entrena Utrilla
Adapted by: Alicia Vílchez Bedmar
It’s already been one year since Plus Ultra Space Outposts was officially registered. And what a year has it been! The company has grown, has bid for contracts, won selection processes, received it first financing… The company couldn’t have asked for a better first year. This baby keeps growing, and it’s growing in the right direction.
To celebrate this special day, we made some questions to our CEO, Carlos M. Entrena Utrilla, and these are his answers. Enjoy this little interview!
Q: Today is Plus Ultra Space’s birthday. How was the birth process?
A: Plus Ultra Space was born on July 29th, 2020, but it had been gestating for a while. I had been playing with the concept of lunar infrastructure since April 2019. I started working with René (our CFO) in August 2019, and we created the concept of Harmony in January 2020. July 29th just marks the official birthday, when René and I signed Plus Ultra Space into existence at a notary in Madrid. In that date, our company stopped being a concept, and started being a tangible project (tangible as in having tons of paperwork involved).
Q: And how did things evolve since then?
A: Since then, things have been constantly improving. Just the month after our founding, Sebastian (our CCO) joined. Another month passed and 5 of our engineers joined. Another month and Jesse (our Head of Engineering) joined. In less than a quarter of a year, our project attracted 7 additional members to our team, who believed in our vision and in our way of doing things. We started 2020 with a concept and 2 people, and we finished it with 9 people, a preliminary design, and a set of partners participating with us in the final selection of ESA’s Moonlight Initiative tender process. In the meantime, we also were selected for the Astropreneurs accelerator, received our first Letter of Intent, completed our first branding (thank you Quy!) and found our first advisors. The pandemic brought many bad things, but we definitely managed to thrive in the meantime.
2021 has been even better. In February 2021 we submitted an amazing proposal for ESA’s Moonlight Initiative that received overwhelmingly positive technical feedback. We didn’t win the contract in the end, but we had passed the trial by fire for our preliminary system design, and gathered attention from the industry, investors, and customers alike. Our team had proven its worth, and from then on, we would start seeing the results.
Q: What are the main achievements of the company for the moment?
A: We applied and got accepted to Fit 4 Start, receiving our first funding. We applied and got accepted to X-Europe. We keep receiving Letters of Intent from future customers, and signed our first Memorandum of Understanding with another lunar company to work together in the development of the lunar economy (more on this soon!). We grew to 10 people, including marketing and HR capabilities into our team (thanks Alicia for believing in us!). We’ve started discussions with regulators about lunar spectrum filings, with NASA about their Near Space Network, and with GEO operators about collaborations in the Moon. We’ve started the selection of providers for our final system design. We’ve published our website and LinkedIn, started our blog, participated in ESA workshops, spoke in, and moderated various webinars (including a slot to participate in TechTour)…
As you see, there’s a lot behind the scenes going on, most of which we cannot really publish, but that is essential to developing the company in all its aspects. There’s even more that I can’t even talk about, small things that fill our days, give us funding leads, ideas, partnerships…. The lunar industry now knows about our existence, knows what we’re doing, and knows to take us seriously.
Q: How do you see the company’s future?
A: The future looks equally brighter. We’re opening our first international office (Luxembourg) and are hiring our first employee beyond the core team (core team being the 10 of us). We’re about to close our first private funding (if all goes well, more on this soon) that will allow us to get our first satellites in lunar orbit. If we close our round in time, by the end of the year we could grow to 32 people, move to new offices in Madrid and Germany, release RFPs for our key providers, and book our first launch(es) – hopefully plural.
Q: All of this in one year! Quite impressive, isn’t it?
A: If someone had told me we would be in such a good position just 1 year in, with a lunar project, I wouldn’t have believed it. This is a testament to the great timing and need for our Harmony constellation and, more importantly, a proof of the amazing work that our team does every day. I couldn’t be more grateful to my 9 colleagues for believing in our vision and in themselves, trusting our plans, and executing beautifully.
I think that, after 1 year, this is one of our biggest accomplishments: an amazing team of people. There’s only so many hours and skills that a person can have, and teamwork is necessary to overcome those limitations. I may have come up with the idea for Harmony, but it was our team that brought it where it is today. It may have been my idea, but at this point it is certainly our baby.
Q: So... what’s next?
A: The other big accomplishment is a simple one: sticking to our schedule. The norm in space is to always be late. I don’t remember the last time that a large space project reached its milestones on schedule. For the moment, Plus Ultra Space is right on time, following the plan drafted in early 2020. If we close our funding round, we will be in a great position to reach our first launch by the end of 2023 and start providing communications and navigation on the Moon by 2024. A seemingly insignificant achievement, but again a great show that our team is doing things right.
We think no one can argue that Plus Ultra Space is advancing at a good pace. It has made progress in all the key fronts of a satellite constellation (technology, commercial, regulatory, financing) and is set to accelerate it progress in the coming months.
It’s been a year of achievements. Lots of work, lots of stress, even more uncertainty… but many achievements, nonetheless.
Here’s to another year at least as good as the last one.