The Future Of Space: Daniel Bock Of Morpheus Space On How Space Travel and The Space Industry Can Improve Our Lives Here On Earth
An Interview With David Leichner
Be impatient and persistent: In contrary to 3. — you should not accept that space is slow — nor should you resign if things do not work at the first try. Fail fast and learn quickly — this is what really drives innovation and speed.
The commercial space industry has never been more active. With the privatization of the space industry, led by companies like SpaceX and Rocket Lab, billions of dollars are now being poured into pushing the boundaries of space travel. But while this is very exciting and interesting, how exactly will space exploration improve the lives of the vast, vast majority of us who will be remaining on earth? How can space exploration improve our society? In this interview series, we are talking to leaders from the space industry who can talk about the new developments in space travel and space technology, and how these developments can improve all of our lives. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel Bock.
Daniel is a space entrepreneur with the aim to enable a sustainable and safe future of our planet Earth by seeking new ventures and pushing boundaries. Daniel is CEO & Co-Founder of the NewSpace company Morpheus Space that provides autonomous satellite mobility solutions to make space safer, more affordable, and more accessible.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started in the space industry?
I’ve been always passionate about space — actually since I can think. I’ve been always fascinated by the vastness of space and am wondering if we are alone. So, it was quite obvious for me that space will play a big role in my life. Before Morpheus, I was a space engineer and Assistant Professor at a German university in Dresden. I did research in electric propulsion systems for satellites and worked for about a decade on the technology which later became the core tech of Morpheus Space which we founded in 2018. I’ve always been driven by the idea of exploring the unknown and pushing technological boundaries to provide solutions that bring us further as a human species.
Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell our readers about the most interesting space related projects you are working on now?
Sure. Our vision at Morpheus Space is to enable so called dynamic constellations for the very first time. Today we are using satellites mostly for earth observation and communication and the industry changed dramatically in the last decade in regard of how these services are provided. We are moving away from large, super expensive single satellites to so called constellations — meaning networks of dozens, hundreds or even thousands of affordable satellites linked together to fulfil one mission objective like providing internet around the globe. However, these constellations are planned many years in advanced, built and finally deployed into space without actually being very much responsive on changing circumstances. So you are quite fixed with your initial plan and have to hope that things work out as you planned many years in advance. This concept is not really addressing our needs of a rapidly changing world we are living in. But with our technologies, we are now bringing flexibility to business models and means to react on events down on Earth. We are doing this by providing automated mobility solutions for satellites that can simply rearrange the shape of these constellations in a dynamic way — even when the satellites are already in space.
Applications for this new capability are countless — ranging from observing certain events on Earth on demand like natural catastrophes to following harvest cycles for precision agricultures for different regions around the globe. And we are just starting get a grasp of how this could affect many different industries.
How do you think this might change the world?
Space opened up in the last decade to be accessible for commercial use (instead of only being accessible for countries or agencies), but you still need to be a space expert or at least need a lot of space expertise within your team to really use space for your business. I however understand space as an infrastructure — a commodity for all of us like roads, trails, water or the internet. But to really get there, we need to lower the barriers to entry to space. This includes lowering the technological barriers but also the economical ones. At Morpheus we are working towards lowering both of them to make space accessible for more people and industries to finally become an inclusive infrastructure. If we are successful with our mission, you will be able to use space for your business without the need to be a space expert — how you are also nowadays don’t have to be an IT specialist anymore to use the internet to sell your products through it.
What are the three things that most excite you about the space industry today? Why?
With the NewSpace movement — the commercialization of space — we are now at the beginning of the second phase of space exploration. Due to the decrease of prices and new tech developments since the Apollo era, we are now at the brink of really exploring space as a species and eventually colonizing new worlds. If you’d asked me before my career in which decade I would have liked to live, I would have definitely told you the 1960’s, because of the incredible achievements in space exploration back then. But today, I would answer this differently: I think that now is the best time to be alive, because NewSpace brings space exploration to the next level and our generation will finally be the ones who explored and colonized completely new worlds in space.
What are the three things that concern you about the space industry? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?
I’m concerned about how we are still treating space until now — space debris already is and will become a real and imminent threat if we do not change our behaviors and find proactive solutions as soon as possible. If we do not act now by implementing rules, providing mobility to the satellites to avoid collisions and take a more sustainable approach, we might end up in cloud of debris around our planet that will prevent us of leaving our surface at all to keep on using space services or exploring our universe.
Space is still very exclusive. If we don’t change this and we will limit ourselves in how much it can contribute to making our lives better here on Earth
Can you help articulate to our readers a few of the ways that the space industry can improve the lives of the vast majority of us who will be remaining on earth? How can space exploration improve our society?
Space already is a critical infrastructure for our lives here on Earth and we will become more and more dependent on it. Without space technology we would basically fall back to a technological stone age — e.g. all of our mobility and navigation solutions as well as international payment systems would simply collapse. Today for example, we already get critical data from space for weather, climate, agriculture, catastrophes, research etc. to name just a few and we are connecting the world and devices through space. But what really matters is, what we are going to use space for in the future — the applications are limitless — only limited by our imagination. We are still at the beginning of really understanding how this kind of new infrastructure will provide a better live for all of us.
My expertise is in product security, so I’m particularly passionate about this question. Recently there were famous cases of hackers breaking into the software running automobiles, for ransomware or for other malicious purposes. Based on your experience, what should space companies do to uncover vulnerabilities in the development process to safeguard their vehicles and aircraft?
Space is a very critical infrastructure and I think that every space company should always keep this in mind when developing new products. We all should have the obligation to use the newest security technologies in our products and at our company environments. Space assets have the advantage of making it quite difficult to locally access it once in orbit. But this also means that the communication with satellites and the software layers onboard of a satellite are critical and needs an even higher focus. What also strengthens the overall security is that the industry is moving away from centralized of single high value targets to distributed and more resilient architectures of satellite constellations.
What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The Space Industry?
- Think outside the box: Space is (still) a very complex and harsh environment. To really drive innovation in space you need to be creative by combining technologies and principles that might not have been used in space. So you should literally keep a broad horizon.
- Think big: Space is an expensive industry, so your return also has to be high enough to make it work. Solve big problems that serve a lot of people.
- Have time: Space is vast and slow. There are always delays and you should plan for it, even if you are not responsible for it.
- Be impatient and persistent: In contrary to 3. — you should not accept that space is slow — nor should you resign if things do not work at the first try. Fail fast and learn quickly — this is what really drives innovation and speed.
- Love what you do: I think if you love what you are doing, all the blood and sweat is worth it. You are able to motivate yourself and other to finally create a dynamic to be successful as a team.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
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Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.
About The Interviewer: David Leichner is a veteran of the Israeli high-tech industry with significant experience in the areas of cyber and security, enterprise software and communications. At Cybellum, a leading provider of Product Security Lifecycle Management, David is responsible for creating and executing the marketing strategy and managing the global marketing team that forms the foundation for Cybellum’s product and market penetration. Prior to Cybellum, David was CMO at SQream and VP Sales and Marketing at endpoint protection vendor, Cynet. David is the Chairman of the Friends of Israel and Member of the Board of Trustees of the Jerusalem Technology College. He holds a BA in Information Systems Management and an MBA in International Business from the City University of New York.