Clutch Space provides high-performance communications for ground station network providers and satellite operators, reducing the cost and complexity of satellite communications. After years of experience working on several Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Earth observation missions the founders of Clutch Space, including Martin Philip the CEO, recognised that software designed systems can bring significant economic and technical advantages to space operations. Keen to collaborate and problem solve with complementary organisations, Clutch Space applied to join the Catalyst Programme in June 2022.
The Catalyst Accelerator is a defence and national security industry accelerator, headquartered on the Catalyst Campus for Technology and Innovation in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Accelerator’s Space Domain Awareness (SDA) programme has been designed around a problem statement, highlighting the global need for monitoring of the space domain. The US has maintained leadership in space domain awareness since the 1960s, however as more countries participate in space, the need to protect and defend the safety of flight and commerce for all, needs a more inclusive global response. The Catalyst Programme selection process for Clutch Space involved a series of applications and pitches to a high-level panel, made up of representatives from the US Space Force, US Air Force and the Air Force Research Lab, with additional help from the UK and Australian governments. The selection was narrowed from more than 50 original applicants, to 15 companies pitching, down to the 8 final participants from Australia, Luxembourg, the USA and from the UK. Clutch Space applied on the 29th of June and was accepted onto the programme on the 26th of July, a quick, intensive and rewarding process.
Martin Philip, CEO of Clutch Space, comments,
“At each stage of the selection process the company was provided with actionable and specific feedback, allowing us to respond in the next round, giving us the best opportunity to present the best of us as a solution to the problem statement. “
“We are to spend 7 weeks in Colorado Springs, which is a most beautiful place to work. The programme involves a series of presentations, tasks, development opportunities and networking. One of our first sessions was with the head of acquisition for the US Space Force, telling us how to supply to his needs….talk about starting at the top!”
The programme spans three months, from the 9th August through to the Demo Day on the 3rd of November, with a further opportunity to participate in the Sprint Advanced Concept Training in the two weeks following the Demo Day. The organisations selected for the cohort are highly complementary as a group and can provide sensors and monitoring systems on the ground and AI/ML vision software on board the satellites. The role of Clutch Space in this is as a monitoring system, using new micro ground stations, developed as part of the Sprint project with the University of Surrey.
The micro ground stations are very small, very discreet, with impressive capacity and signal to nose performance, allowing the opportunity to deliver commercially viable, global observations of the space domain. One of the reasons for applying to the programme is for Clutch Space to achieve market validation to develop a full global monitoring system for SDA, an addition to the already planned global coherent network of micro ground stations, providing persistent connectivity for operations in low earth orbit.
The work completed to date, including with the University of Surrey reducing the complexity of the hardware in a satellite antenna has many applications. These include easy, effective connection with objects in low earth orbit and beyond, whether for command and control, or for data download, or in the case of the SDA as a passive monitoring system.
The benefits for Clutch Space of being on the programme are many fold. The level of access provided to the users of the largest space domain awareness programme in the world is unprecedented for a small UK company. The additional aspects of the programme such as support in marketing, commercial, legal, and regulatory frameworks in the USA, will enable the build out of a ‘go to market’ strategy, not just for the SDA applications, but also for the ground station services. In the first two weeks of the programme, Clutch Space have already been approached by external stakeholders at a recent networking event who are interested in the ground stations for a number of sites in the USA.
Martin further comments,
“The support SETsquared Surrey has provided has been essential, from the earliest days after the business foundation, through to us sitting at the table with the head of procurement for the US Space Force. SETsquared Surrey have helped us with guidance across a whole range of areas from the formation of our market hypothesis, and value proposition, through to corporate finance, HR, legal, IP and general business support. They encouraged and supported us recently with the University of Surrey Sprint programme application, something we were previously averse to. This has since developed into a mutually beneficial relationship with the academics at the 5G/6G Innovation Centre. “