The space race was largely restricted to government space agencies for a long time. The amount of capital and the resources required always kept the private players at bay. However, in the last decade, the scenario has completely changed, and private players are making a name for themselves in the space industry.
Vaya Space is one such space agency involved in satellite launches. Vaya Space is transforming the path to space by unlocking the potential of hybrid rocket engines. Its technology allows its customers to achieve competitive advantages by placing SmallSats into orbit sooner.
Brent Willis, CEO of Vaya Space, was with the CEOViews team to share the story of their journey and what they envision.
CEOViews: Vaya Space is known for its mechanically simple designs, innovative production methods, and hybrid rocket propulsion technology. Tell us how the journey started and what was the motivation behind starting Vaya Space.
Vaya Space: Vaya Space Chairman of the Board, Sidney Gutierrez, the first U.S. born Hispanic Astronaut, Pilot of Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-40), and the first Hispanic Space Mission Commander, Commander of Space Shuttle Endeavor (STS-59), during the final countdown of Endeavor the last words from NASA Launch Command to Sid and his crew prior to liftoff were “Vaya con Dios” instead of the traditional God speed. This later became the genesis for the company’s name. Sid’s passion for finding safer, more sustainable, and affordable access to space, in many ways redefining rocket science, has now become their quest.
CEOViews: What is the process of decision-making in Vaya Space or to put it more clearly, what guides Vaya Space in taking the right decision?
Vaya Space: The core values and common ethos to make the world and space a better place guide Vaya Space in its pursuit. This is reflected in their corporate policies, procedures, recruiting/hiring practices, and ultimately in their decision-making. They believe that their greatest resource is people. They hire the best and create an environment that is supportive and empowering. They encourage everyone to have a voice in problem-solving, which leads to the greater buy-in of the solution and then incentivize employees by creating an ownership stake in the outcome, celebrating, rewarding, and sharing their success.
The mission of Vaya Space has been to revolutionize access to space and make it available to the rapidly growing small satellite market.
CEOViews: How do you think the new Dauntless will transform the industry and the experience of your customers?
Vaya Space: The mission of Vaya Space has been to revolutionize access to space and make it available to the rapidly growing small satellite market. To do this, they are developing Dauntless, the world’s first mass-producible, ‘launch-on-demand’ small satellite launcher.
Dauntless is set to disrupt the launch services market and help to transform the space industry, utilizing the vortex-hybrid propulsion technology to provide sustainable, affordable, and safe access to space and thereby transform the customer experience.
CEOViews: How does Vaya Space provide its teams with the right environment and space to be innovative?
Vaya Space: Vaya is a purpose-driven, mission-focused, and environmentally conscious enterprise dedicated to making a difference for humankind, revolutionizing space, and in essence, reducing plastics on the planet by taking them off the planet. They convert plastic waste into their patented rocket fuel. To accomplish this, Vaya recruits and employs passionate, creative, and driven individuals who will embrace and reflect their core values – to make the world and space a better place.
We foster an environment to challenge assumptions and exchange ideas with rigorous but respectful debate, empowering small teams to make decisions and providing the tools to turn design concepts into small-scale prototypes for further testing and evaluation. This approach has resulted in the development of break- through technology innovations, leading to our unique vortex-hybrid rocket propulsion system. Each launch utilizes the equivalent of two million discarded plastic bottles, recycling plastic waste that would otherwise clog landfills and pollute oceans into high-energy rocket fuel, carrying satellites into orbit that will improve life on our planet.
Vaya Space is a creative space where innovators and those who dare to dream big can prosper. We are pet friendly, have open seating, numerous themed collabo- ration break-out rooms, onsite recreation facilities, gym, gaming rooms, free healthy snacks and drinks, and an informal, friendly atmosphere that is respectful of the diversity of opinion, background, and experience. We encourage an “appreciative inquiry” style approach that allows everyone to feel comfortable while challenging assumptions, bonding with other members of the team, as they collaborate, learn, and create.
CEOViews: What according to Vaya Space are the biggest challenges that the company faces and how does the company deal with them?
Vaya Space: The biggest challenges that Vaya Space faces today are those impacting the sustainability of the planet. Plastic is inexpensive, readily available, and versatile, with properties that make it ideal for many applications, even rocket fuel. However, these qualities have also resulted in it becoming an environmental issue.
Vaya Space is committed to making a difference in reducing, reusing, and recycling plastic.
Global production of plastics exceeds 380 million metric tons annually, with almost half of all plastics produced today designed for single disposable use, to be used just once and then thrown away. Unfortunately, less than 9% of all plastics are recycled, with more than 10 million metric tons of plastic waste entering our streams and oceans each year, polluting ecosystems, endangering wildlife, and contaminating our food chain.
Vaya Space is committed to making a difference in reducing, reusing, and recycling plastic. Their vortex-hybrid propulsion technology is fueled by 3D-printed thermo- plastics sourced and produced entirely from recycled plastics. This material is non-explosive at ambient temperature and pressure. This means it only acts like high-energy rocket fuel under controlled conditions when combined with atomized liquid oxidizer and ignited. It also produces lower greenhouse emissions with no black carbon/soot, making it both a greener and safer alternative to traditional rocket fuels.
CEOViews: How does the “30-day cycle- build, integrate, and launch ready” incorporate all these while promising a safe and smooth experience to its customers?
Vaya Space: Safety has always been our top priority, and innovation is part of Vaya Space’s DNA. We use the latest technology, PLM, and engineering software tools to accelerate product development and reduce time to market, such as digital transformation, digital twin, model-based design, and Industry 4.0 best practices. We encourage transparency in communications and customer involvement throughout the launch reservation/planning process, utilizing internal customer advocates to ensure the optimal customer experience.
For the days to come, they aim to revolutionize space and make a difference for humankind, reducing plastics on our planet by taking them off our planet. Adhere to the 3-R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle plastic.