Startups  January 5, 2024

ThinkOrbital lands in Boulder

BOULDER — It wouldn’t make much sense to build Coors Field in Nebraska and then lug it to Denver just in time for the Rockies’ opening day game. Yet, that’s essentially the approach humanity has taken toward structures in space: build them on the ground and launch them fully assembled into orbit.

ThinkOrbital Inc., a space-construction and infrastructure technology company that recently established its headquarters in Boulder, is trying something new. 

“We believe that for humanity to have a true footing in space, you need to be able to commercialize space,” ThinkOrbital CEO Sebastian Asprella told BizWest. “You need to be able to build an economy, and to build an economy you first need to industrialize it. You can’t industrialize without scale, and you can’t achieve scale unless you can construct in space.”

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The company is developing tools and techniques for in-space manufacturing processes such as cutting and welding, but ThinkOrbital’s long-term goal is to build ThinkPlatforms. “These platforms, which are configured for a single launch and assembled autonomously in orbit, can support multiple space missions, including in-space manufacturing, satellite servicing, space debris processing and storage, a variety of military missions, pharmaceutical development and even tourism,” according to the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, which helped lure the company to Colorado and supported its efforts to secure a tax-incentives package from the Colorado Economic Development Commission. 

Asprella, who co-founded ThinkOrbital with retired U.S. Air Force Colonel and president Lee Rosen and Vojtech Holub, the company’s chief information officer who holds a Ph.D. in engineering, said the company was launched as a “bit of passion project” in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic by a group of “aerospace nerds.”

The company, which has won grants and contracts from the state, NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense and recently raised a $3.5 million seed round, selected Colorado over Florida for its headquarters because of Colorado’s strong aerospace industry and workforce, Asprella said. 

“Colorado companies are at the forefront of the commercialization of space. By selecting Colorado for its headquarters, ThinkOrbital will join them in creating good jobs for Coloradans and ensuring that our strong economy continues to include this important and growing sector,” OEDIT executive director Eve Lieberman said in a prepared statement. 

Because ThinkOrbital is “focusing on research and development, the ecosystem in Colorado was more suitable,” he said. But “heavy manufacturing might be more suitable elsewhere,” so when ThinkOrbital’s technology is ready to be built, the company may establish a factory in another part of the country. 

ThinkOrbital first set up shop in offices at Tycho Station, an aerospace-centric startup hub in Lafayette.

“We started to grow very rapidly,” and the company’s leaders began looking for a larger headquarters, Asprella said, and soon decided the offices at 5721 Arapahoe Ave. in east Boulder fit their needs.

“The Boulder Chamber is excited to welcome ThinkOrbital to our rich aerospace industry cluster, further expanding the dimensions of innovation in activity that Boulder businesses are advancing in space exploration and operations,” Boulder Chamber CEO John Tayer said in an email to BizWest. “The all-star team that ThinkOrbital has assembled reflects the character of scientific curiosity, technical expertise, and entrepreneurial mindset that I expect will fit comfortably and thrive in Boulder’s economic ecosystem.”

The ThinkOrbital team of seven employees and four contractors is working out of 3,800 square feet in the new Arapahoe Avenue headquarters, which space for offices, warehousing, machining and testing 

While the company just celebrated its ribbon-cutting in late 2023, “I feel we might outgrow this (new headquarters) quite rapidly,” Asprella said. 

The company plans to raise a seed round in 2024 that will fund ThinkOrbital’s efforts to turn its research into products and services that can eventually be brought to market within the next few years.

“We think that this has the potential to be very profitable,” Asprella said.

BOULDER — It wouldn’t make much sense to build Coors Field in Nebraska and then lug it to Denver just in time for the Rockies’ opening day game. Yet, that’s essentially the approach humanity has taken toward structures in space: build them on the ground and launch them fully assembled into orbit.

ThinkOrbital Inc., a space-construction and infrastructure technology company that recently established its headquarters in Boulder, is trying something new. 

“We believe that for humanity to have a true footing in space, you need to be able to commercialize space,” ThinkOrbital CEO Sebastian Asprella told BizWest. “You…

Lucas High
A Maryland native, Lucas has worked at news agencies from Wyoming to South Carolina before putting roots down in Colorado.
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