Reach for the Stars! Space Technology in SoCal
On May 11th, 2022, an enthusiastic group of leaders in space technology gathered outside the Athenaeum Club on Caltech’s campus, alternately welcoming familiar faces and providing introductions to those whom they had not yet made an acquaintance. After posing for a group photo they were led to Caltech’s Center for Autonomous Systems & Technologies (CAST) and specifically to the Kármán Laboratory of Fluid Mechanics and Jet Propulsion where Mory Gharib, Director of Aerospace at Caltech, provided an insider’s tour. From incredible next gen drones to a wind tunnel used for testing the amazing robotic helicopter now on Mars, the attendees were treated to an impressive show of innovation.
Sergio Pellegrino’s lab was next on the tour and did not disappoint. His space solar power project is an incredible marriage of practicality (lightweight structures), functionality (remote deployment), and state of the art technology. The many applications for this technology immediately became transparent to the group and Professor Pellegrino generously lingered after his presentation to answer the many questions posed by the group.
Eventually the group traveled back across the lush grounds of Caltech’s campus to convene once again at the Athenaeum Club, this time for cocktails and dinner sponsored by Techstars. Framed as “How can we change the market of space technology?,” a thoughtful roundtable discussion began with Matt Kozlov, Managing Director of Techstars LA, sharing a brief synopsis of the Techstars journey into space technology. He then turned the spotlight to Techstars’ Investor in Residence, Sherman Williams and then to JPL’s Manager of the Technology Office, Tom Cwik. Each guest was then given a moment to reflect and comment before dinner was served.
Over dessert, Andy Wilson, the Alliance for SoCal Innovation’s Executive Director, posed the question “What advice would you give to a space tech start up? and, again, each guest responded in turn. Collectively, the guests agreed, without irony, that it’s a foolish thing to start a company and space is particularly hard. You have to be totally passionate about it; you must be bold and ask for help; but remember that you don’t have to do the whole thing yourself. Look to others to collaborate with and reach for the stars!
That last sentiment was music to our ears. As the SoCal Superconnector, the Alliance strives to strategically convene diverse stakeholders who share common “innovation missions,” and we were thrilled to host this opportunity to bring together key leaders in this exciting industry that calls SoCal home. We think Sherman Williams said it best when he said “We are moving humanity forward by getting tech in the right hands to do the right thing.”
To learn more about Techstars Space Accelerator, please visit: https://www.techstars.com/accelerators/los-angeles