Payload Pioneers 2023: Neil Buchanan

Neil Buchanan wasted no time after completing his Master’s thesis on in-space manufacturing to jump in and get hands-on.

Buchanan cofounded Lodestar Space, a UK-based startup building robotics systems for in-space servicing, debris capture, and manufacturing, to attack a hard tech problem he saw plaguing the space domain. He’s been committed since the beginning to ensuring that the work done in space has a tangible benefit back down on Earth.

“We’re working to be the face of the fight to make space work for our planet, not run away from it,” Buchanan said.

Lodestar 101: Through Lodestar, Buchanan and his cofounder Thomas Santini work to build modular robotics systems that are capable of servicing spacecraft in orbit as well as capturing loose pieces of debris. Eventually, the team hopes to deploy in-space manufacturing platforms that can repurpose spent pieces of spacecraft into usable materials for the in-space economy.

Buchanan hopes that this approach will “generate entirely new ways to commercialize space, where a rocket launch doesn’t have to be a bottleneck for what we can construct, where satellites aren’t thrown away if they have a problem, and where we can start to properly democratize opportunities in space.”

In the year since graduating from university and cofounding Lodestar, Buchanan has raised $300,000 in funding from UK investors and established partnerships with the UK Space Agency and ESA.

New entry: As a young founder himself, Buchanan is passionate about creating opportunities for young people to get involved in real projects within his company. “My north star is to give exceptional people at any stage in life the opportunity to build the impossible before it becomes the normal, especially [if they’re] from non-traditional backgrounds,” he said.

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