From SpaceX and Virgin Galactic to Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, the race for space is on, and over the next decade many satellites and new spaceships will be on their way to explore the “final frontier”. And for this journey to the great unknown, these ships are gonna need a lot of computing and smart components. However, conditions in space are far from the convenient living we earthlings have down here; extreme temperatures, zero gravity, and cosmic radiation are just a few of the potential dangers of electronics in space. Veteran Israeli company Ramon.Space, a developer of space computing solutions, secured $17.5 million in Series A funding.
From landing on an asteroid to a close-up with the sun
Ramon.Space was founded in 2003 by President Ran Ginosar Ph.D., CTO Tuvia Liran, and VP Engineering Dov Alon - with a goal to manufacture computers and chips built for the harshness of space. CEO Avi Shabtai said in a conversation with Geektime that Ramon.Space has had a long partnership with the Israel Space Agency. “It was obvious that the computers in space were less developed than the ones on Earth. It was also clear that space exploration will be on the rise, and this will demand better performing computing solutions in space, similar to the ones we have on Earth,” he said.
Shabtai added that the company was aware of the space travel revolution and understood that “Ramon.Space could offer revolutionary high-performance space computing solutions. There is a clear need for advanced tech, and Ramon.Space is at the forefront of the high-performing space component industry.”
In the meantime, chips developed by Ramon.Space have been used for actual space missions, including the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter mission, which took the closest ever photographs of the Sun; as well as aboard the Japanese spaceship Hayabusa 2, which landed on asteroid 162173 Ryugu some 186 million miles from where you’re reading this. Additionally, the company’s chips can be found in hundreds of low orbiting satellites. “We develop a personal connection for years, together with continuous learning of the problems and challenges facing space agencies,” noted Shabtai, and reveals that to date the company has participated in over 50 space missions, “showing that we have strong relationships with many of the world’s space agencies,” added Shabtai.
What’s the difference between a chip developed for space, compared to the ones we use on Earth?
“Development takes into consideration that the computing components need to operate in space, from the concept stage, through testing, and production. This includes subjects like choosing the right materials, since heat isn’t conducted in space. The product also solves for environmental factors, such as temperatures, vacuum, and radiation. To ensure the structural stability of the products, such as during launch or strong turbulence, the development process includes QA testing, which also verifies that the components can survive in space for long periods of time.”
Preserving Earth by researching space
Considering we’ve seen some pretty old processors operating the most innovative devices - like the Ingenuity drone copter which used a 7 year old chip - brings the question: Do you also use “ancient” hardware for your components?
Shabtai responded by saying: “Computing wise, space is still a few generations behind. Computing systems in space aren’t really advanced, and there are massive gaps compared to computing down on Earth. We bring the same earthly capabilities to space, including advanced data analysis, AI, and signal processing, so that the company is sending the most advanced technologies from down here to up there.”
According to Shabtai, the space market is becoming more commercial, and is powered by economic models and business decisions - leading to a new kind of space travel. He said that “all of these help create amazing opportunities for the company to provide solutions over the next few years. Of course, we already live on the best planet in the neighborhood, this has already been proven in past missions, and the best way to preserve it is to use resources from space to improve and optimize our lives down here.”
After over 50 missions, with some getting global recognition, like the Hayabusa 2 mission, Ramon.Space announced the closing of a $17.5 million Series A funding round. Participating in the investment, we find UMC Capital, WorldQuant Ventures, Deep Insight, StageOne Ventures, and Grove Ventures. The funding will help the company expand its computing solutions, support operations, and assist in expanding both its Israeli and global development teams.