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Albuquerque-based data analytics firm RS21 rocketed to first place in this year’s Hyperspace Challenge on Thursday with new technology to predict failures on satellites before they happen.
The company competed against 10 other firms and two university teams, winning $25,000 and opening the doors for potential future contracts with space-related government agencies. Two out-of-state companies, Seattle-based Starfish Space and Florida-based Space Domain Awareness, won $15,000 and $10,000 second- and third-place prizes, respectively.
The online pitch event culminated two months of work that paired participating companies with government contractors to develop new technology to equip satellites and spacecraft with remote, autonomous ability to manage problems.
It’s the third annual Hyperspace Challenge, which launched in 2018 to help accelerate technology development for the U.S. Department of Defense and entities like NASA to resolve critical issues in space. The Albuquerque-based program is jointly managed by the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base and the ABQid business accelerator run by CNM Ingenuity, which oversees all of Central New Mexico Community College’s commercial endeavors.
RS21 created a machine-learning algorithm modeled on data analytics methods used in precision medicine to predict patient outcomes, said president and CEO Charles Rath.
“We can predict the likelihood of certain health events by looking at a person’s medical records, demographics, age, symptoms and other data points,” Rath told the Journal. “We applied those same methods to satellites, which produce lots of data to predict when satellites will fail.”
The accelerator potentially opened a new space-related market for RS21, which developed an array of contacts with government agencies through the program that could lead to future contracts, Rath said.
That’s the central goal of the Hyperspace Challenge – to connect private industry with government scientists, engineers and contractors to resolve problems, said Program Director Roxanne Aragon.
“We’re thrilled with the results of this cohort, especially given the shift to virtual formats because of the pandemic,” Aragon said.
The participants met with government representatives in virtual networking events.
“It was kind of like speed dating for the teams to engage with government folks,” Aragon said. “Evaluators worked to assess technology proposals and present feedback.”
Two other New Mexico-based companies also competed, along with New Mexico State University, since the program was opened this year to university researchers for the first time.
“This year was a tremendous success,” said U.S. Space Force Accelerator Program Director Gabe Mounce. “It highlighted the value of bringing together a diverse cohort of entrepreneurs and students to demonstrate how cutting-edge innovation in the private sector can be brought to bear for National Security Space autonomy problems.”