Space IoT: The Final Frontier


The greatest transformation in the history of aerospace is happening now. The confluence of new technology combined with the evolution of space-based markets presents incredible opportunities for companies in the connected space.

Joining us on this episode to break it all down is Dennis Muilenburg, Former CEO of Boeing and current CEO of New Vista Acquisition Corp., a SPAC focused on emerging technologies in the aerospace and defense sectors.

Topics we covered:

- Significant changes in the connected space over the last 20 years

- How SPACs help emerging space IoT technologies

- Evolving space-based markets

- What’s on the horizon for space exploration

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You think about things like Earth observation alone and the number of different market sectors that that kind of new information and data serves. It's it's an incredible new opportunity for the future, a tailor made for small start ups. You are listening to over the Air Iot connected devices and the journey, brought to you by vary. In each episode we have sharp, unfiltered conversations with executives about their IOT journeys, the mistakes they made, the lessons they learned and what they wish they'd known when they started. Hey, everybody, welcome back to over the Air Iot connected devices and the journey. Today we're going to be talking about SPACS, space and Space Iot. My guests today former CEO bowing and current CEO of New Vista, Dennismallenberg. Dennis, welcome to the show. Hey, thanks, Ryan, it's great to be with you. Thanks for coming on. So, Dennis, most people know you as a life for at bowing. Can you give us a little bit of background on your new adventure? Yeah, you met just a couple of weeks ago. We did the IPO on a new spack called New Vista Acquisition Corps, and I we're focused on the emerging technologies of the aerospace and defense sector. So I look back over the history of aerospace the last one hundred plus years, I think this is the greatest transformation in the history of aerospace, and that's including the jet engine age space age. The number of new technologies that are all coming together at once right now and really transforming aerospace is an incredible opportunity and that's where new vista is focused. I totally agree. As you know. You know, going back to Boeing and then we'll catch back up with this space theme, you guys were doing some really cool things that would later be called Iot. I think at the time referred to more as systems of systems, but you just bringing in our audience kind of up to speed. Can you give a little background on some of the cool projects that you were working on during your time there and then, like maybe we'll look for some connective...

...tissue through to, you know, the projects that you're interested in right now. Yeah, Ryan, you know this. This goes back almost to twenty years back when we were working on a system of systems programs, as we called it back then. As you said, that was iot before it was Iot, and one of the big programs we worked on was something called future combat systems, and this was a program for the US army to try to bring new networking technology and robotic technologies to soldiers and to push that out to the tactical edge. And we worked on a number of different systems that would connect soldiers in new ways, new communications gear, robots, both flying and crawling, robots that could be controlled in the hands of soldiers out in platoons. All of that connected back to their main tanks and other platforms that they would operate in. All of this network to cross about two dozen different systems that we're all being developed in parallel, all of which could operate as a cohesive what we call brigade combat team. So it was fantastic technology in terms of connectivity and new ways of operations, and it also brought about new organization structures, operational structures for the US army. So it's interesting how the technology and organization structure both kind of transformed together that that was an awesome effort, really a precursor to allot of the other system of systems work that's now been done over the last two decades. If I recall, that award was circa two thousand and two, two thousand and three, is that about right? Yeah, just about twenty years ago. What would you say like looking back in the the years from then to now, what are some of the significant changes you've seen in the connected space? Can you talk a little bit about that arc that like have got you feeling really jazzed about two thousand and twenty one? Well, I think some of the trends that we see in a continuing to accelerate is priest bandwidth and reliability of connectivity. So as now, as we look at the proliferation of G and new levels of connectivity, we look at things like satellite communications technology, which is now very commonplace, those...

...high bandwidth, high connectivity capabilities are enabling all kinds of new technologies on their own. Vehicles that are connected, people that you can stay connected, you know, around the clock, around the world. All of those things are transforming how we live and it's exciting to see that arc and it's actually not slowing down, it's speeding up as we think about new communication technologies for the future. Okay, let's take that push that threadforward. Bring us up to present day. So New Vista. You guys just raised a boatload of money. Quarter of a billion, maybe slightly north of that, for your spack. Your orientation is towards space. Specifically, as I understand its, space Iot, which show, which is the coolest term anyone's ever said on this podcast. What can you tell us about what you guys are interested in focused on? What kinds of things are we going to be seeing out of New Vista? Yeah, we going back to new Vista. When we look at the emerging technologies that are of interest to us, you see things like artificial intelligence, autonomy, new networking technologies, new manufacturing technologies, new propulsion systems, new satellite networks made up of microsatellites and nanosatellites. These are small, much smaller scale network satellites, if you want to use that term of Space Iot, connecting thousands of thousands satellites on orbit. All of those technologies coming together at once are transforming logistics and transportation. Things like e commerce, which are satellite enabled, things like advanced air mobility, flying taxis, which are highly connected machines, again using space, space communications, areas like next generation defense systems, and then the foundational transformation of the space ecosystem. You think about low earth orbit, right, a hundred miles plus up above the the surface of the earth. Today there's really one destination, there international space station, but over the next decade there's going to be massive growth in new destinations,... factories, space tourism, a whole new transportation system to serve that ecosystem, all connected by satellites and communication techniques. All of that crease this new space Iot and it's transformational. It's going to make low earth orbit the next big ecosystem and it's really interesting. One of the things that we often hear from venture capitalists is that the companies doing really interesting things in space have much too long of a time horizon to be like interesting as portfolio companies. It feels like spacs fill that gap effectively. Is that your view on it? Yeah, I agree. Spacs are a great new vehicle to help some of these private startup companies mature with with the time skills needed to field new hardware and space and ultimately become a successful public company. And traditionally space is a hardware and software kind of business. VC money often, I'll say, shies away from hardware businesses and tends to focus more on just digital and software. Space Business also tends to have higher regulatory burdens, you know, and certification for space hardware if you're going to put humans into space. Arguably the most difficult thing that mankind does is putting humans in space. But those higher regulatory boundaries you'll also tend to extend the timelines. So sometimes venture capitalists don't have enough patients for those kind of investments, whereas a spack can come alongside these private companies not only be a provider of capital but also a provider of additional technical depth and operational experience, really a long term kind of business partner, and and that's really the business model that we've developed with our new vista spack. So we're looking for great emerging technology space companies, companies who will make this space iot environment a reality, but they can also use a partner who can bring a strong amount of capital along technical expertise and operational expertise,...

...with a long view of the idea of ultimately producing a successful public company, you know. So some of our listeners out there are probably asking themselves, Hey, look, space is the most fascinating thing that you can do. I The entrepreneur in question, this Fi digious person and interested in starting a company or directing my company towards space to participate, you know, in this really exciting arena. What advice would you have for a smaller company that wanted to participate in Space Iot? What? What are some of the gaps that you think will be there? Maybe a smaller company could be really effective at that, like the larger companies. Obviously going to do the huge pieces like the propulsion systems and things like that, but are there gaps that you think, if you were advising you say, Hey, look, I really think if you focused he or there's some opportunities to get in there. We see several several evolving space based markets where small companies are being successful. One is in the in the launch market and smaller rockets, medium sized rockets, many rockets, if you will, with smaller payloads, so as satellites get smaller in size, but these nanosatellites and microsatellites I talked about earlier, the size of the rocket to take them into space comes down and is simplified and and we're seeing a number of companies that are entering that marketplace with the idea of reducing the cost to get to space, breaking the cost curve and thereby increasing access to space. That's a very luquidive area and a number of new startups are being very successful there. A second area of interest is in a satellite to design itself, with companies who are now d printing satellites, designing new very small scale satellites that are networked with very sophistically a payloads and putting thousands of those on orbit with multiple launches. Again, that's something that the capital and scale of a small company can actually achieve. So that's an exciting area...

...for the future. That if you think about the services that ride on these networks, these new satellite IOT networks, fabulous variety of companies that are working in it, in that area on things like Earth observation, new reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities, new communication capabilities, dozens and dozens of small startups that are primarily software companies that are now operating on this new space based network and satellites, and the number of applications there is almost unlimited. It's incredible how much values being created. You think about things like Earth observation alone and the number of different market sectors that that kind of new information and data serves. It's it's an incredible new opportunity for the future and tailor made for small startups. MMM, yeah, interesting as you're thinking about commercial applications of some of these things. Let's talk about the moon for a second. I've heard you mentioned that traveling from Earth to moon and back needs to be well, those are my words, not yours, by paraphrasing, but more like a highway and less Lewis and Clark. Can you talk about what some of the specific challenges? You know, obviously take off and landing feels extremely important, but what are some of the really important technical challenges that you think meat would need to be solved for to turn it more into that highway experience where you did don't even think about it too much. You're able to something that you would feel good recommending your friends and family embark on. Well, this is the exciting part about space travel that's involving right before our eyes, Ryan. It's it's the most exciting time and space exploration that I can remember, even going back to the Apollo days, and the first steps going to be building out this lower orbit ecosystem that I talked about. I think space travel in that realm will become very commonplace over the next decade or two. You already see a number of companies that are working on things like space tourism, the ability to bring humans to the International Space Station. There's going to be a number of...

...companies that operate in that space successfully and before too long you're going to see lowerth orbit space travel become as common as a commercial airplane travel is today. Then, stepping from there, the next thing is to return to the moon. With NASA, there's a program underway to do that, the Artemis Program, the big rocket that's going to bring humans back to the moon, the new space launch system that development testing is underway and on Nassa's planning the first mission in two thousand and twenty four. And think about this. Putting humans back on the surface of the moon, this time to stay, and I think that's one of the big big changes, is to create a permanent lunar base, permanent operations that will allow the transportation to travel between Earth and moon to become more commonplace, become a highway, as you said, and then developing a lunar gateway that can then serve as a gateway for deeper space exploration to things like asteroids and then ultimately putting humans on the surface of Mars, and one of the my favorite things to talk about back when I was at Boeing was that same space launch system of rocket, which I believe will be the rocket that ultimately does take the first human to the surface of Mars. I want to ask you one last question about the moon. There were talking about Mars and then I definitely can't let you go without talking about mining asteroids. But sixty nine was the first time we went to the moon. When was the last manned mission to the Moon? have been early s early sevens. Yet it feels when you talk to folks, when the baby boomer generation, it feels personal. You know that was such a big part of their story to go and and in a way that I'm not sure like all space narratives feel. It feels like we're back, we've come full circle. We haven't been at a long time. It's a topic a lot of people touch on. Do you feel like we're turning to the Moon is personal for you? Do you feel a personal attachment to being a part of that story? I do. I feel a very personal attachment to it. I still remember,... a very young child, watching the the Moon landings the Apollo landings and just marveling, marveling at that. I had the privilege during my bowing career to meet Neil Armstrong and spend some time with him. What a fantastic guy, incredible man, great courage and very humble about what he accomplished, being the first human stepping foot on the moon, and I was always inspired by that, something that inspired me throughout my entire career and now it's it's just exciting to see us returning to that opportunity, as I said, not only getting back to the moon but setting up a permanent base there. A lot of people don't realize how much of the technology from the Apollo program changed so much of our lives here back on earth over the last many decades. A lot of the computing technology, the IOT technology that we talked about can trace its way back to the space program. New Materials, new medical equipment, so many things that transformed life on earth because of the space program and now I think we'll see a second wave of that as we go back to the moon, set up a permanent presence, go to Mars. The technology ripple the benefit back to humans here on on the surface of the earth is going to be extraordinary and many things that we don't even know yet right. So, asteroids. I've heard it said that the world's first trillionaire will be made very possibly be the I or person that that gets this right, that really figures out how to get in there mind some of these what are to US rare elements may not at all be rare in the core of an asteroid. Is this something that really turns your crank? Is that something that you think new vista would be taken a hard look at? Is is companies that are may be oriented in the direction of being able to be a part of that story? Is that on you guys's radar? Yeah, I think that this something. Certainly it's going to be a high interest to us over over time. I don't see any companies that are ready to go public yet in that sector to certainly a lot of the investment that's going into into asteroid minding...

...and I think this whole area of deep space expiration will ultimately be of commercial interest to us as well at New Vista. And this idea of asteroid mining is a is a fantastic one. Right there. They're almost unlimited possibilities there. It could be rare minerals and and other capabilities that we could find on these asteroids. There companies already demonstrateing the ability to rendezvous with an asteroid, land on it, be able to pick up a material from the asteroid return it to Earth. So those technologies are already being developed and demonstrated. Now that the trick will be to do that at scale and to do it in a way that's economically viable. And it's not only about going to asteroids and mining and bringing stuff back to Earth, it's also about space based operation. So there's some who proposed, for example, finding asteroids that might be rich in in ice and be able to harvest that ice and move it to the moon as a source of water on the moon, going from low gravity to low gravity. So they're all kinds of possibilities once you tap into the ability to reliably and economically gain access to asteroids. So my last question for you. Elon Musk is famously said that he's fine to die on Mars, just not on impact. At what point do we see, Dennis Muhlenberg, what is your threshold for space travel? So you're obviously very interested in investing being close to it. At what point do we see Dennis Muhlenberg races hand and go put eyes on, up close on on something in outer space? You want to be one of the first guys in this next wave. Are you waiting to see certain safety thresholds kind of be in place? Oh, I want to be in that first wave for sure. So as soon as I can I want to fly into lower thor of it. Without a doubt and with all the energy and investment that's going into that, I think that's going to happen fairly soon. So one of my personal goals is within the next decade to be to be flying in space and to be in low earth orbit. And you know, if I could rendezvous with the International Space Station or...

...maybe go check out the latest space factory, I'd be up for that. So that's your version of the roaring S I like it. That sounds pretty cool. Dennis Muhlenberg, we really appreciate you coming on the show today. Always great to see you appreciate it. Ryan. Thanks, I enjoyed the conversation and thanks for the opportunity you got it. You shouldn't have to worry about IOT projects dragging on or unreliable vendors you've got enough on your plate. The right team of Engineers and project managers can change a pivotal moment for your business into your competitive edge varies. Close Knit crew of ambitious problem solvers, continuous improvers and curious builders know how to turn your ideas into a reality on time and up to your standards, with a focus on mitigating risk and maximizing opportunity, will help you build an Iot solution that you can hang your hat on. Let's bring your Iot idea to life. Learn more at very possiblecom. You've been listening to over the Air Iot connected devices and the journey. If you enjoyed today's episode, make sure to hit subscribe in your favorite podcast player and give us a rating. Have a question or an idea for future episode? Send it to podcast at very possiblecom see you next time.

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