The space industry is evolving, as is the equipment it uses; Epsilon 3 is a startup trying to make launch, satellite design, rocket manufacturing and other complex processes easier and more collaborative. The company has found its equipment has uses beyond space, and growing traction across the board has led to $15 million in new investments.
It wasn’t long ago that Epsilon 3 raised its $2.8 million seed round, founded by SpaceX veteran Laura Crabtree and Epirus’ Max Mednick, in early 2021. The idea is simply stated but difficult to achieve: to create an operating system for the modern space industry.
Companies working to build new satellites, rocket parts, etc. often use much earlier software because, like using “flight test” hardware, the industry is in some ways very technically conservative. If it ain’t broke, don’t update it. But while it works up to a point, these legacy tools don’t quite meet the needs of fast-paced startups, and that’s what Epsilon 3 is aiming for.
To be clear, this is not a substitute for Windows or macOS, but rather a suite of software tools used for decades to design, approve, implement, and track things like iterative part design. It involves a lot of data, multiple parties checking everything multiple times, and ultimately a kind of stew of old and new interconnected (or completely disconnected) platforms.
Since January the company has seen growth not only in the space industry, but also in nearby and even completely unrelated areas, suggesting that there is a real appetite for improvement here.
On the space side, the company noted (with some surprise) that the software had been heavily involved in orbital activity until recently. “We saw launches year over year, and 20% of those teams are using Epsilon 3,” Mednick said. Considering that the company started operations only last year and got its seeds in January, this is impressive.
But you might wonder why something suitable for building satellites for fintech or other enterprise types of customers is so good.
“It’s been really surprising to us — basically they’re both complicated,” Mednick explained. “It boils down to the fact that even business workflows and processes often involve multiple departments, multiple people approving, data going back and forth to many people, and work being done in multiple stages. . There are written procedures for these things, and they need to be closely tracked when they are safety critical or mission critical – such as for compliance. And they’re often using a tool like a wiki or confluence or even just a google docs; That’s exactly the kind of thing Epsilon 3 can help with — it’s not just testing a new engine, it’s installing a new vendor.”
“We still see the space industry and surrounding space — launch, satellite operations, testing — as well as nearby industries that may need automotive, fusion, renewables and e-VTOL,” Crabtree said. “But if other companies like FinTech want to come forward and use our software, that’s great.”
He emphasized that their non-space customers are still a very minority, as the instruments are being built with launch, orbit and aerospace in mind.
They’ve added a few features recently – one in particular that was in high demand is the ability to pull in live data from other databases that might not otherwise be integrated. So a standard or inventory database can be pinged to tell a person or workflow whether they have enough stock to cover the construction plan. The Epsilon 3 now works offline too, syncing back up when you have a connection again – useful when you’re testing in the New Mexican desert. And data coming in from another source (like a satellite) can now trigger workflows within the OS, “if this then that” style.
Features are primarily driven by feedback, Crabtree said: “We listen to what our customers want – we have a very long list of requests, but we also have our own product vision.”
Although the company has targeted startups and businesses at a smaller scale, this is just the beginning of its ambitions.
“We have just started supporting our first government customer, the 45th, in the Cape,” Crabtree said. (ie the 45th Space Wing at Cape Canaveral). “We want to expand into some prime, and other startups as well – we were drawn to support startups.”
The $15 million in funding should help speed things up. The round was led by Lux Capital, with participation from Moore Strategic Ventures, Y Combinator (of which Epsilon 3 is a graduate) and Mack Venture Capital.