Announcing 2019 Small Satellite Hyperspace Challenge

The Air Force and business accelerator ABQid, powered by CNM Ingenuity (CNMI), are launching the second annual Hyperspace Challenge program to drive technology innovation in the space industry nationwide.

A one-of-a-kind program, Hyperspace Challenge brings together technology startups and government innovators from around the country to collaborate and solve real-world problems facing the space industry. The first part of the program invites startups to hear from and meet one-on-one with government innovators from AFRL, Navy, NASA, and others. The second part of the program involves pitching their capability to a live audience in Albuquerque, NM. Each year, Hyperspace Challenge addresses specific government capability needs – this year’s challenge is looking for emerging technologies that can be applied to small satellites to make space more accessible.

Government agencies have identified six real-world problems they think can be solved by startups and innovators:

  • Aggregating Large Data from Small Satellites to Determine Changes in Human Patterns of Life– Air Force Research Laboratory
  • Building and Deploying a Connected Network of Devices on the Moon – Air Force Research Laboratory
  • Developing New Communications Systems for Deep Space Missions – NASA
  • Creating New Deep Space Power Systems for Small Satellites – NASA
  • Increasing Performance of Propulsion Systems for Small Satellites (High Delta-V Propulsion) – NASA
  • Enabling Large Data Transfer from Remote Environments Via Low-Earth Orbit Small Satellites – Navy

The Hyperspace Challenge was created in 2018 by the Air Force Research Laboratory in New Mexico (AFRL NM) to break down barriers and accelerate collaboration between technology startups and government and military agencies.  It is one of several initiatives operated by The AFRL NM Tech Engagement Office to drive partnerships with industry.

Six of the 10 participating startups in the 2018 program, which focused on geospatial data analytics, have gone on to sign government contracts. San Francisco-based tech startup CrowdAI, last year’s winner, turns satellite images into meaningful data and insights. CrowdAI’s Head of Business Operations & Strategy Cliff Massey said of the program, “Hyperspace Challenge is where we learned to navigate the defense contracting waters, we met people who taught us about the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, and came to understand our best options given our size and our tech.”. Since participating in last year’s Hyperspace Challenge, CrowdAI has seen significant growth and won three contracts with the federal government.

“We look throughout government and military to identify thorny problems without obvious solutions,” said Matt Fetrow, AFRL NM Tech Engagement Office Director. “Hyperspace Challenge offers companies the opportunity to identify innovations that they may have applied initially to other domains, apply them to space-related challenges, and get assistance in building a business relationship with the federal government.”

The space industry is a growing component of the New Mexico and U.S. economy and many entities are looking for ways to foster innovation and investment.

“Hyperspace Challenge can both help speed up government innovation and help grow small businesses through potential government contracting. It’s a win-win,” said CNMI’s ABQid Executive Director T.J. Cook. “It’s a broad challenge to capture some of today’s technology disruption happening in space and bring it down to Earth.”

As an addition to this year’s program, NMA Ventures joins as a 2019 Hyperspace Challenge partner and will offer equity investment, office space near Kirtland Air Force Base and support to top teams that choose to relocate or establish a location in New Mexico.

“We are excited to support this initiative. Our mission is to fund innovation, while supporting New Mexico, and we believe our partnership with AFRL NM can be the catalyst for addressing real challenges in space technology,” said Dorian Rader of NMA Ventures.

The application period runs through September 6. Over the following three months, participants will present proposals to government innovators and receive feedback and support. The participants with the best proposals will be selected for a week-long hyper-accelerator in November, where they will participate in face-to-face customer discovery sessions and compete for cash prizes via the live pitch event.