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Meet K2 Space, a spacecraft startup leveraging SpaceX Starship

Cofounders and brothers Karan Kunjur, left, and Neel Kunjur.

K2 Area

A pair of brothers is aiming to problem the best way spacecraft are constructed, by going towards the trade pattern and designing large satellites in a guess that towering rockets akin to SpaceX’s Starship are the best way ahead.

Los Angeles-based startup K2 Area, co-founded by CEO Karan Kunjur and CTO Neel Kunjur, is getting down to construct satellite tv for pc buses — the bodily construction of a spacecraft that gives energy, motion and extra.

Whereas producers have just lately pushed to optimize spacecraft by designing as mild and compact as potential, with small satellites within the vary of tens to lots of of kilograms, K2 goes the opposite approach and designing programs that might be on par with a few of the largest spacecraft ever constructed.

“The one path to go cheaper during the last decade was to go smaller. What we’re discovering is that, with the brand new launch capabilities of autos like Starship, there’s truly an attention-grabbing alternative to go the wrong way,” Karan Kunjur advised CNBC.

An aerial view of a Starship prototype stacked on a Tremendous Heavy booster on the firm’s Starbase facility exterior of Brownsville, Texas.


The price per kilogram to ship spacecraft to orbit has additionally come down, because of elevated competitors within the rocket launch market the previous few years. And K2 sees alternative past simply Starship, from rockets within the “heavy” and “tremendous heavy” lessons, akin to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy, to these in improvement like United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan, Blue Origin’s New Glenn, or Relativity’s Terran R.

“We’re actually constructing this factor to be launch automobile agnostic, planning for a world the place there are going to be a number of launch suppliers,” Karan Kunjur mentioned.

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K2 Area, a play on the brothers’ surname and a nod to astronomer Nikolai Kardashev’s scales of civilization, marks Karan and Neel’s first enterprise collectively and fuses their beforehand divergent careers. The previous spent 10 years at Boston Consulting Group engaged in firm turnarounds and acquisitions, earlier than turning into a vice chairman at synthetic intelligence startup Textual content IQ earlier than it was acquired in 2021. The latter lower his enamel at SpaceX, the place he spent about six years creating programs for its Dragon spacecraft, which now fly cargo and crew to the Worldwide Area Station. Then he went to electrical plane firm Kittyhawk for a few years earlier than realizing that he needed to return to the area enterprise.

“Our objective is to observe related engineering rules that we adopted at SpaceX however apply them at a distinct scale that basically hasn’t been explored earlier than within the trade,” Neel Kunjur mentioned.

Since its incorporation in June, K2 has raised $8.5 million in a seed spherical led by First Spherical Capital and Republic Capital, and joined by Countdown Capital, Increase VC, Additionally Capital, Aspect Door Ventures, Earthrise Ventures, Spacecadet VC and Pathbreaker Ventures. Its backers have invested in a wide range of area firms beforehand, akin to First Spherical’s early backing of now public satellite tv for pc firm Planet.

The brothers have employed seven individuals up to now to affix them — bringing on expertise with prior expertise at SpaceX, Maxar, Arianespace, Blue Origin and extra — and are in negotiations to safe a 15,000-square-foot manufacturing unit within the Torrance, California, space.

K2 has additionally constructed an enviable roster of advisors, akin to former NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver, former SpaceX director of the Industrial Crew and Cargo program Abhi Tripathi, former SES chief know-how officer Martin Halliwell, and Lee Rosen, former U.S. Air Drive area launch group commander and SpaceX vice chairman of mission and launch operations.

For K2, the corporate is concentrating on costs that might be remarkable for satellite tv for pc buses of those sizes. To this point it is planning to construct the K2 Mega, a category for as much as one ton of payload mass at $15 million every, and the K2 Giga, a category for as much as 15 tons of payload at $30 million every. They imagine they will obtain these value factors by creating new programs akin to energy, perspective management, thermal management and extra.

“Our spacecraft are very, very completely different than any of the massive or small satellites that exist in the present day. Now we have to go relook on the parts and do plenty of in-house improvement to design new applied sciences to commerce mass and price in a brand new approach,” Neel Kunjur mentioned.

A slide from the corporate’s pitch deck.

K2 Area

K2 has up to now acquired a pair of small improvement awards from the federal government and mentioned potential clients for business, science, and protection purposes have signed early agreements.

“We envision a future the place we are the platform that enables them to calm down these constraints and be capable to construct the payloads that they’ve all the time needed to that sit on high of this platform,” Karan Kunjur mentioned.

The corporate plans to launch its first Mega class spacecraft in 2024, earlier than going for a primary flight with clients in 2025.

“Realizing firsthand from SpaceX the significance of iteration, we need to enhance our studying cycles in order that we will get to area, study from these parts, see how they function within the area surroundings, and tweak these designs in anticipation of our full launch in 2025,” Neel Kunjur mentioned.

“If we get this proper there is a potential for a step change in how we function in area,” Karan Kunjur added.