Catalyst Accelerator’s Data Fusion Cohort Leads the Way
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo – October 26, 2020 – Catalyst Accelerator’s Data Fusion Demo Day was the culmination of months’ worth of work for a cohort of eight small businesses and startups who revealed their innovative, dual-use data fusion technologies to the Department of Defense and commercial industry.
Sponsored by Air Force Research Lab’s Space Vehicles Directorate (AFRL/RV), the Catalyst Accelerator brought large industry and government together with small businesses and start-ups to transform how data is used in the rapidly expanding space domain. Dr. Jaime Stearns, Space Control Missions Lead for AFRL/RV explained that today the Space Force keeps track of several tens of thousands of objects in geosynchronous orbit that are largely the size of a car and have very little maneuverability or autonomy. In the coming decade that number will grow to millions of objects the size of a shoebox that are highly maneuverable and autonomous and will go beyond geosynchronous orbit out to the moon. This creates a far more complex problem that is infinitely more difficult to analyze and predict.
Managing and making use of the data from many sources – our own government satellites, as well as foreign and commercial satellites – becomes more challenging as the number and complexity increases. This provides a unique opportunity for largely commercial applications to be reoriented for the space domain. A cohort of eight data fusion companies were chosen from an applicant pool of 20 in December 2019, to bring their data fusion solutions to the space problem. However, “this cohort was greatly affected by COVID. We had to take a seven-month break and finish virtually, but these eight companies still followed up on the leads they had made because of the Accelerator and pulled it all together into amazing pitches. These companies didn’t let COVID slow them down. I expect to hear of them making great traction as they move forward,” says, KiMar Gartman, Program Director of the Catalyst Accelerator.
The cohort worked with government and industry Sherpas, consultants and operators to shift their perspective from commercial application to military/defense and all that is entailed in working in that sector. The data fusion cohort brought fresh, divergent ideas and solutions to attack the problem of capturing, managing and exploiting space data. “The Space Force needs new, innovative ideas and can-do attitudes to make them a reality. The Data Fusion cohort definitely brought both, showing their commitment and enthusiasm throughout the Accelerator and Demo Day. I am excited to see where these companies are headed!” says Capt. Shannon Young, Ph.D., Lead Advanced Imaging Physicist, AFRL/RVSU.
The Data Fusion Demo Day was the result of months of work for cohort companies in refining their messaging, modifying their technology and advancing through the government system. “We felt we had the best opportunity for growth that we’ve ever had as far as working collaboratively with other small companies; working with Sherpas that could assist us in the process of learning the pathways to get us the best fit with the military; and getting in front of Warfighters to understand the data fusion needs so we could orient our technology towards suiting them. Super exciting to be part of this,” says Dan Huffman of Vigilant Technologies.
Sherpas, putting in over 320 hours of volunteer time, worked directly with the small businesses to assist them in understanding the warfighter perspective and what the government is looking for in solutions to the challenges of space data and taking steps forward to enter the arena. From the perspective of industry Sherpa, Bob Wright of Deloitte Consulting, “We’ve been able to watch companies we mentor here go on to competitions with the Air Force and win funding. Deloitte is very proud to be a sponsor and Sherpa and to be connected with the entire team at Catalyst Campus.”
This was Catalyst Accelerator’s fifth cohort to advance through their 12-week program of helping small businesses and startups gain traction in the defense sector. Jatin Banes, of Channel Logistics DBA Space-Eyes, was part of the Space-Based Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) cohort which finished in November, 2019. “I’m impressed with how this program keeps getting better and better,” he says. The most recent cohort kicked off Cyber for Space Applications in September, 2020 and will show their Demo Day technology on November 19, 2020.
The corporate sponsor for the Data Fusion 12-week Accelerator was Microsoft, which donated funds to offset the cost of travel for the small businesses to attend in person prior to the move to the virtual environment. Ball Aerospace sponsored the Demo Day event.
About Catalyst Space Accelerator
The Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate’s Catalyst Accelerator is a NewSpace-focused defense and national security industry accelerator, headquartered on the Catalyst Campus for Technology and Innovation (CCTI) in Colorado Springs, Colorado. CCTI is a collaborative ecosystem where industry, small business, entrepreneurs, startups, government, academia, and investors intersect with Colorado’s aerospace and defense industry to create community, spark innovation and stimulate business growth. The Catalyst Accelerator is a collaborative program hosted by Catalyst Campus for Technology and Innovation, Inc. (CCTI, a Colorado 501(c)3) in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory to provide a robust, mentor-driven curriculum for accelerator teams.
For more information:
Mrs. KiMar Gartman
Catalyst Accelerator Program Director