US Air Force Funds Advanced Integrated Circuits and Satellite Electronics

Nalu Scientific, which specializes in advanced integrated circuits, and Space Micro, which is focused on satellite electronics, have been selected for funding by the U.S. Air Force in a program designed to help the agency harness the rapid innovation of startups in solving national security challenges.

Nalu Scientific, along with Space Micro and Rhea Space Activity, originally proposed a space system called ILLUSTRO – which will be a combination of hardware and software that fuses Nalu Scientific’s single photon detection technology into Space Micro’s commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) space qualified computing architectures. ILLUSTRO will be a dual-use technology that can be used both by commercial and military satellites to aid in space situational awareness. The stand-alone ILLUSTRO module would be small (measuring less than 10 cubic centimeters and weigh less than half a kilogram) and require minimal power (less than half a watt). It could therefore be easily integrated into SmallSat architectures, as well as larger terrestrial and aerial vehicles.

The program is a collaboration between the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and AFWERX, a technology accelerator launched in 2017 and coordinated with Colorado-based accelerator Techstars.

“We were excited to see the U.S. Air Force engaging the federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) approach to tap the fast-paced innovation of the startup world for national security,” said Nalu Scientific founder and CEO Isar Mostafanezhad. “There is immense potential in inverting the traditional process of issuing a call for specific solutions, and instead looking for solutions from among the technologies being developed by the private sector.”