Making the space industry more accessible to companies is a tough challenge – but not an impossible one, one Bulgarian space company believes. For a few years now, Sofia-based Sfera Technologies has been working on how to make getting data out of satellites more cost-effective.
Established in 2019 as a spinoff of an aerospace engineering team, the Bulgarian company has now developed a concept called Homeport, which is a distributed ground station network for satellites.
“The way you get data from satellites is that you receive it through antennas – you set up an antenna with hardware underneath to program it to start receiving when the satellite flies above. The more antennas you have, the more windows you have for receiving the data. We developed this into a concept to have a network of these stations that are built not by us, but rather have other people contribute to it,” Zdravko Dimitrov, Sfera Technologies’ founder and CEO, tells The Recursive.
With a background in aerospace engineering, Dimitrov is also a co-founder of SAT-1, an initiative for bringing together talented people from Bulgaria in the field of engineering.
Regarding his latest project, Dimitrov says that instead of setting up stations everywhere, Homeport will allow people who already have stations or want to build one, to basically contribute to its network in a software environment.
Using smart contracts and blockchain oracles, Homeport will also allow space enterprises to quickly compose a virtual ground segment for its satellites, receive the data from them and fast-forward it to clients.
For Dimitrov, this approach brings simplicity and makes the space industry more accessible to companies worldwide.
“If space is going to be accessible and cheap, you need to have standardization, simplicity, and interoperability. This is already achieved in some sectors such as with CubeSats (miniature satellites) as a standard, but there is no such standard for ground stations and ground segment yet, which is what we seek to implement with Homeport and the general products that we do,” Dimitrov says.
Blockchain technology as a driving force for innovation in the space industry
As Dimitrov further explains, one of the paradoxes of the space industry is that while it receives a lot of venture backing and scores high growth rates, it doesn’t fulfill most of its potential.
The reason for this is that there are still a lot of legacy procedures and processes in how parties interact between each other – including lots of paperwork, presenting reports, reviews, technical specifications, and a number of steps a company needs to take to ensure that their product is trustworthy.
By using smart contracts or oracles stored on blockchain, these processes can become much simpler and also much faster, Dimitrov says.
“We’ve seen the value of blockchain resolving a number of bottlenecks in these processes and we decided to build Homeport on top of a framework which will allow these ground stations, data, and so on to be accessible to a much broader array of interactions,” he tells The Recursive.
For this reason, Sfera Technologies has also developed the Ephemeris Protocol, which is a blockchain-based decentralized data infrastructure.
“The Ephemeris protocol is essentially the bedrock to an entire ecosystem of value exchange – whether it is data, launches, satellites and so on, all of this can operate on top of Ephemeris so that you have trust between the parties and reliable exchange of value,” Dimitrov points out.
Token sale in space
Sfera Technologies is also the first space company attempting to raise funds for a seed round through a token sale, Dimitrov says. The company’s further plans also include to expand its existing team in Sofia that currently has six members.
“This is a very flexible mechanism compared to traditional equity venture funding. We essentially generate the tokens for the Ephemeris ecosystem and we’re going to enable not just to build our own product, but also to incentivize for those that want to build data marketplaces, or offer insurance to space companies, or sell data, and so on,” Dimitrov tells The Recursive.
According to him, by doing this, the Bulgarian company aims to incentivize an entire ecosystem to function on top of their protocol.
“So, this is also a good way to open doors not just for funding but also to develop and spread out the influence of our products,” Dimitrov explains.
According to Dimitrov, the space industry is already slowly beginning to show interest in the use of this technology.
“There is a genuine interest from the technology side in the industry and this will give us a very good advantage considering that we will deploy the first ecosystem for tokenization for space processes,” Dimitrov concludes.