This is the birth story of Beyond Atlas. Below you will an FAQ.
Watch the 2 minute video of the mission.
All stories have a beginning, and this one starts on a paradise island. I was reading a book about this Musk guy. As I hate to admit it I was extremely impressed and inspired. This guy was following his passion/vision, entering a space industry dominated by governments and privileged giants. And he seems to make it.
I was in a position with means, but no professional purpose. After a somewhat successful entrepreneurial endeavor and a few more successful investments, I was again searching for passion in profession. Gaming and space were passions from way back when.
I had always thought it would be gaming, space being out of reach. But again, this Musk guy seemed to tell the world differently.
So where would I fit in? Shooting up things into space still felt very resource demanding. Besides, others seemed to be getting that part right. What about flying in space? Exploring space?
What if one could make stuff in space, for space, instead of bringing everything up from below?
Well, choking the islands internet access point, I found out that I hardly was the first one with these ideas, however, it seemed like very few were actually flying. It felt like many projects were so grand in scale they got stuck back here.
With that in mind, I felt a clear focus and purpose. Let’s fly in space, let’s explore it, just for the purpose of exploration itself.
The Internet, what a glorious machine! What used to take years to research is now under one’s fingertips, as long as one have the right questions.
Where to go? The Moon? Well, have we not been there before? An asteroid? There are some 15,000 near-earth asteroids to pick from, however even though they pass “close” to Earth, they then continue their travel around the sun, away from Earth, to return in 10-20-30 years.
All of them but one.
9 months earlier (at the time of my research) an asteroid circling the earth had been discovered. Well, it actually goes around the sun, but in a way so it circles the Earth. It has a diameter of 40-120 meters, it’s just probably a big rock. But no one knows. It never ventures further away from Earth than 56 – 89 times the distance to the moon.
I had found the target.
I become We
Hitting home, hitting the dark, snowy soil of Stockholm, Sweden, I started e-mailing and ringing people. Everyone I could find. A lot of them, from researchers, propulsion manufacturers, space industry people, answered my calls, invited me to meetings and introduced me to the space community in Sweden. As it turns out there are a lot of geniuses and enthusiasts up here in our small country.
I met them, told them about my idea, of my passion for space and that my research (very much scratching the surface I realize at the writing of this) seemed to add up.
As it turned out, no one tried to stop me. Giving me pointers, giving advice and participation – yes. But not stop me. I had become We. Emil, Christer, Sven, Peter, Anna, and Jan-Erik all joined in the ambition and I best call them the Advisors.
One of their first pointers was to get some real analysis done beyond my ankle deep internet knowledge. So, SSC and OHB, two Swedish space companies readily had Petrus, Milan and Robin help out with communication-, mission-, radiation- and system-analysis.
So now we had an operational team as well, things were shaping up.
Spacecraft shaping up too
Pieces were falling into place. The decision was made, without any real analysis other than gut, to go for a 12 U CubeSat configuration. We liked the idea of cheap, and we liked the new companies emerging around the form factor.
First, we had to understand if the pieces were there. It was clear propulsion was going to be an issue, or well it was not, to be frank. We had run into this company the second week of the project who is making these FEEP arrays, and without understanding the luck at the time, propulsion was crossed off the list.
So it was time to break the rules, which reminds me I have not yet listed the rules:
- Don’t get into the trench of developing customized components.
- Only work with the enthusiastic and positive. (that does not exclude realists. Many are of the opinion that realism and pessimism are the same, I beg to differ. There is a very nice brand of realists who acknowledge the difficulties and thrive on its challenge.)
Not very many rules, I am not so fond of rules. So, breaking the first, the thrusters had to be modified to match the patience/getting a realistic length of life of the mission.
Together with the propulsion company, we came up with a working configuration. They started development and we bought the first prototype thruster, based on a few sketches on a napkin. In return for the trust, we got the exclusive rights to sell it beyond GEO, beyond Atlas.
Other pieces fell in place and at the writing of these words only a few pieces of the puzzle are really missing. There are avenues to explore, all breaking the first rule again.
So, well the world was not so grand as I had led myself to believe by the reading of Mr. Musk’s achievements. Access to space for small satellites was not (shockingly) dividing the price of a Falcon 9, by its payload and dada! you did not get the price per kg to orbit (as in my innocent dream).
I had not accounted for the 1-2 MUSD of administration/hassle fees, that emerging giant as well as the old, found appropriate to charge the small satellites.
We had no intentions of burning that kind of money on admin fees, so we needed a partner. Someone who could take us to space at cost, and in return get value out of our vision of exploration. Well, the SNSB (Swedish National Space Board) was very enthusiastic about the project, so the question of cooperation first went closest to home, ESA.
ESA, it turned out had no piggyback options beyond LEO, and changing that would take time. So SNSB made introductions to NASA and CNSA (Chinese National Space Administration).
At the time of writing we feel confident that we will find a partner sharing our vision, willing to take us to space, just for the story we create – just for the sake of exploration itself.
Well, that was the background, to follow the present, see the updates.
/Per-Erik Atterwall, founder of Beyond Atlas.
Our goal: Humans living in space
We want humanity to be a spacefaring civilization, people living in space and we want to explore the solar system. Never before has an privately funded and built spacecraft reached an asteroid. Let’s make history together.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you can’t find an answer to your question, please feel free to email us at [email protected].
Questions : When will you launch the two missions?
We are aiming to launch the first mission in December 2019, and the next mission about a year after that.
Questions : Is this is non-profit effort?
Yes, it is. Beyond Atlas is corporation (aktiebolag) registered in Sweden, but the purpose is not to get an return on investment, but instead to invest all income into making it less expensive to explore space. All people in the project is working pro bono, for free.
Questions : Can I help out?
Yes, you can. This is a effort run by volunteer forces. Sign up with your email and you will recive an email with the possibility to volunteer.
Questions : What happens if you don't raise the full amount in the crowdfunding?
Then we will try to do it another way. Somehow we will fund the missions.
Questions : I am not an EU citizen, can I still help out?
Yes, everyone is welcome to join.
Questions : Who is behind Beyond Atlas?
Beyond Atlas is a Swedish corporation owned by Per-Erik Atterwall, who is also the founder and driving force behind the project.
Questions : Is there an age limit for helping out on the project?
Not for being an volunteer, but to donate money you will have to be 15 years or older.
Questions : How can I donate to the project?
We will launch the crowdfunding early 2019. If you have signed up with your email you will be the first to know.
Questions : Can a company, organization or other group take part?
Yes, in many different ways: Donate money, donate pro-bono time from employees, sponsorship and other collaborations. You are welcome to send us an email at [email protected].