Boulder’s Kayhan Space aims to help satellites avoid collisions

BOULDER — Siamak Hesar was frustrated.

The University of Colorado aerospace engineering PhD recipient was working in the space industry on ways to keep satellites from crashing into one another but found it difficult to get his hands on the latest software he needed.

“The space industry, to a lot of people, sounds very advanced in terms of technology. But when you look at the software availability, it’s like we’re still in the ‘90s,” Hesar told BizWest. “Software companies often still write their programs on a CD and mail it out even though we have so many cloud-based advancements.”

In aerospace, “accessibility to good software is a problem,” he continued. That problem was highlighted last year when a European Space Agency observation satellite nearly struck a SpaceX satellite.

So why not address the problem himself, Hesar thought. 

Hesar teamed up with lifelong friend, technologist and entrepreneur Araz Feyzi and the pair launched Kayhan Space Corp.

The near miss between the ESA and SpaceX satellites “kicked us into high gear and motivated us to get going,” he said. 

Over the next decade, humans are expected to send five or six times more satellites into orbit than have been launched since the beginning of the Space Race. More satellites means more congestion and a higher likelihood of collisions. 

Additionally, “there are an estimated 1 million pieces of debris objects floating around the Earth and constantly threatening operational satellites.”

It’s Kayhan Space’s job to help satellite operators avoid collisions. 

Kayhan is the Farsi word for “universe,” as well as the name of Hesar’s favorite musician and Hesar’s son.

“It has a lot of significance for me,” he said.

The company has developed a cloud-based, subscription model for anti-collision software called the Kayhan Satellite Collision Assessment and Avoidance System, which aims to make these programs more accessible for aerospace startups.

“If you’re a space start up, you either have to hire a person like me who knows the theory behind [ensuring satellites don’t collide] or you have to go out and buy very expensive software licenses,” Hesar said.

Kayhan is a recent graduate of TechStars’ first-ever Applied Space Accelerator cohort.

The experience proved invaluable for the company, particularly during the current uncertain economic period brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When the pandemic started, we were really nervous,” Hesar said. “The space industry can be a niche market that’s really driven by events and conferences where you can meet potential customers, investors and government personnel.”

Techstars helped fill the gap created by the cancellation of these industry events. 

Kayhan’s founder went into the Techstars program with two specific goals: connect with customers and secure financing. 

“We accomplished both, so I think it was a very successful accelerator for us,” Hesar said.

The firm now has beta customers in the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and small satellite mission operator BlackSky and is in talks with Dish Network Corp., he said.

During the accelerator program, Kayhan negotiated a $600,000 pre-seed funding round led by Atlanta-based investor Overline LLC that recently closed. 

That funding should give the company a runway of 12 to 15 months, enough time to fully commercialize and attract a new set of customers, Hesar said.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Kayhan Space team in its mission to keep space safe. The company’s platform helps mission operators separate signals from noise and avoid the time and money lost on unnecessary maneuvers,” Overline managing partner Sean O’Brien said in a statement. “We see Kayhan Space’s solution playing a big part in the future growth of the space economy.”

© 2020 BizWest Media LLC

BOULDER — Siamak Hesar was frustrated.

The University of Colorado aerospace engineering PhD recipient was working in the space industry on ways to keep satellites from crashing into one another but found it difficult to get his hands on the latest software he needed.

“The space industry, to a lot of people, sounds very advanced in terms of technology. But when you look at the software availability, it’s like we’re still in the ‘90s,” Hesar told BizWest. “Software companies often still write their programs on a CD and mail it out even though we have so many cloud-based advancements.”

In aerospace, “accessibility to good software is a problem,” he continued. That problem was highlighted last year when a European Space Agency observation satellite nearly struck a SpaceX satellite.

So why not address the problem himself, Hesar thought. 

Hesar teamed up with lifelong friend, technologist and entrepreneur Araz Feyzi and the pair launched Kayhan Space Corp.

The near miss between the ESA and SpaceX satellites “kicked us into high gear and motivated us to get going,” he said. 

Over the next decade, humans are expected to send five or six times more satellites into orbit than have been launched since the beginning of the Space Race. More satellites means more congestion and a higher likelihood of collisions. 

Additionally, “there are an estimated 1 million pieces of debris objects floating around the Earth and constantly threatening operational satellites.”

It’s Kayhan Space’s job to help satellite operators avoid collisions. 

Kayhan is the Farsi word for “universe,” as well as the name of Hesar’s…