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How Space Talos Are Building Magnetic Shields For Satellites And Spacecraft

Alexandros Christou
  • Co-Founder
    Alexandros Christou
  • Co-Founder
  • Shielding for satellite electronics
  • Focus
  • 🌍
  • Employees
  • 1-10
  • Country
  • Founded
  • 2018

Tell us your background and about Space Talos

I studied mechanical engineering and did a PhD in biomechanics. I found interest in space in later years of my life when I realised how many technologies have evolved from space research. Calling space the frontier for engineering and technology stands true to this day!

My co-founder Majed has done 13 years of research in the field of magnetics and superconductors at extreme environments as a material physicist. He developed the core IP around the technology and when we met together in 2018, we hit it off immediately!

Space Talos is a tech startup that develops a proactive shield from space radiation. This practical technology enables commercial off the shelf electronics in space over and beyond the radiation belts, something that has not been possible before.

Space Talos satellite shielding

The company is currently a micro-SME. We have doubled in size over the last year and we are looking to grow further over the next year. We have received both angel and institutional funding as well as government support (aka grants) for this endeavour. We are very lucky to have people that share our vision and help us along this journey.

How did the idea for Space Talos come about and what was it like getting started?

The idea started from attending some space conferences in the UK where people were complaining about the limitations of radiation-hardened electronics and passive protection of spacecraft. We got inspired by the Earth’s magnetic sphere that protects us here on Earth. We read the literature on the topic of active shielding and we came up with a practical device that can be mounted on the satellites.

This practical technology enables commercial off the shelf electronics in space over and beyond the radiation belts, something that has not been possible before.

This practical technology enables commercial off the shelf electronics in space over and beyond the radiation belts, something that has not been possible before.

We started cold emails and calls to see if this is something that people would be interested in buying. As soon as we realised this is something of great potential and there is scientific evidence to support the claim, we started planning to develop the technology.

Space Talos team

The first months were (surprise, surprise) stressful. Mainly because everything feels counter-intuitive. You enter a market you don't know yet, you pitch for investment without any financials in your hand, you talk to clients for a product you have not built yet and look to manage expectations/negotiate. Things get better with experience and as the company grows, obviously. I cannot stress enough how much it helped to have another person to share this experience and support each other.

Why is shielding against radiation an important problem to solve and how does it help human space exploration?

Space radiation is harmful to satellite missions. While here on Earth we are protected by Earth’s geomagnetic field, as we travel beyond Earth’s low orbits, exposure to radiation levels increases significantly.

You enter a market you don't know yet, you pitch for investment without any financials in your hand, you talk to clients for a product you have not built yet and look to manage expectations.

Currently, the industry uses passive radiation hardening by adding metal layers around sensitive electronics. This is adding weight, increases secondary radiation and it is not always possible, as in the case of solar panels.

For high radiation environments, the only semiconductor circuits that are used are made from ten to twenty years old fabrication processes. They are associated with significantly reduced performance, higher cost and higher power consumption in comparison to currently used electronic components. This is a limiting factor for the applications and services provided by the space industry.

Space Talos software

Our technology creates a magnetic field that blocks ionised particles before they reach the spacecraft, reducing the “felt” radiation by the satellite. This leads to an increased lifetime of electronics, at reduced weight and costs. This proactive shield would work as a catalyst for new applications in space.

This means more sensitive, cameras, robotics, AI processors, for example. Basically, it would be similar to giving a modern computer to a developer in the 90s. Also, manipulating plasma flow would mean that we could potentially look at radiation not as a threat but as an energy source.

What are some achievements you're proud of?

We have received awards such as the ESA-BIC UK grant, an Innovate UK themed grant, we have been a selected delegate of Innovate UK for the US space mission, we have been awarded a grant from the UK Space Agency (SPIN) and we have been selected as top 10 startup finalists in Paris Space Week and top 500 startups in the Hello Tomorrow Global Challenge.

You need to keep getting out there, show your progress constantly and be open to scepticism; it helps you build your case in the long run.

We have been awarded a contract with DASA stage 1 and secured our angel and VC investment. Finally, we have demonstrated our concept with a neutral hydrogen plasma in vacuum conditions, which we are very happy about.

And all of the above in a little over a year. We are extremely proud of our progress so far and we plan to pick up the pace over the next two years with a demonstration in space.

What have been some of your biggest challenges? How did you overcome them?

We are working on a very difficult problem in the space industry. Since the sector is quite risk-averse, building credibility and business relationships was a slow process. On the technical side, getting plasma facilities to test the idea is expensive and not readily available. It took a lot of groundwork and networking to find the right people.

In the end, patience and persistence is key. You need to keep getting out there, show your progress constantly and be open to scepticism; it helps you build your case in the long run.

What are exciting milestones coming up for Space Talos?

Over the next 6 months, we are filing a few more patents and doing more plasma experiments on the ground. Over the next 1 year we will have our flagship; an active shielded satellite bus with our proactive shielding technology mounted. By the end of 2021 we will have our payload and launch pipeline sorted to demonstrate our technology in space!

Space Talos

What advice do you have for aspiring space entrepreneurs?

Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. There is a lot of sympathy for entrepreneurs and FREE advice. Ask the difficult questions even if the answer could kill your idea. It is better to know now than in 3 years.

Find the right people to support you. Time is a precious resource in startups; always have the walk-away conditions clear in your mind and learn to say no politely but firmly.

I cannot stress enough how much it helped to have another person to share this experience and support each other.

How can the public support you with your mission?

Share the love! We are looking for early adopters for our technology, so the more people get to know about us the better!

We are currently hiring in London, UK and Athens, GR. Make sure you follow us for more opportunities!

We will be presenting in the Satellite Innovation Conference in San Fransisco in October; we are happy to meet new people there!

Lastly, where can people find out more about Space Talos and follow along?

We are always happy to connect with other space enthusiasts! You can have a look on our website or drop us a message directly on info@spacetalos.co.uk. To stay tuned for more updates, we post on Linkedin.

Space Talos website
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  • Alexandros Christou
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