On this week’s episode of the Pathfinder podcast, Ryan sits down with Sierra Space CEO Tom Vice. His one-year anniversary as chief executive is one week from today (July 19). In the last year, Sierra has: – Raised a $1.4B (yes, billion) Series A.</p> – Announced that it will build the <a href=”https://payloadspace.com/blue-origin-sierra-space-to-partner-on-orbital-reef-outpost/”>Orbital Reef</a> space station with Blue Origin, Boeing, Redwire, and others.</p> – Readied Dream Chaser for its first orbital flight and identified new runways around the world for the spaceplane to land.</p> – Created an astronaut program, led by company president and former NASA astronaut Janet Kavandi.</p> So, needless to say, Sierra has been keeping busy. We couldn’t have picked a better time to talk with Tom and check in on the company’s progress.
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- Tom’s resume. He spent a few decades rising through the ranks and eventually served as president of Northrop Grumman’s aerospace unit before he moved into startupland.
- What he can talk about from his Northrop days (ie, what’s been declassified) vs. what still requires a security clearance
- Air and space are the proving ground for autonomy technologies
- Why did the space company spin out of Sierra Nevada Corp. last year?
- Sierra Space’s cap table and fortifying the balance sheet before a market downtown
- The space platform play…Dream Chaser is the transportation, Orbital Reef is the destination, and then there’s all the space applications
- What’s the best historical precedent or analogy for where the space industry is at in this moment in time?
- Tom’s visions for the future, with a constellation of private space stations and thousands living and working in space
- Sierra’s growth from 1,000 employees at the end of 2021 to 1,800+ now
- For All Mankind
- When is Tom going to space?
The two parts of the bio we discuss:
1) “It is amazing to me that today we are flying at the same speed we were in 1958 when the Boeing 707 was introduced. In general aviation, the speed of the aircraft has only improved by 10% over 50 years.”
2) “We will enable humanity to live, work, explore, and vacation in Space!”
…and more. There’s plenty of mind-boggling bits baked into this conversation, from manipulating the electromagnetic spectrum to peering back in time with JWST to Tom’s concept for an Asian fusion restaurant in low-Earth orbit.
0:00 – Intro
2:00 – Tom’s résumé
4:15 – Most guidance systems rely heavily on air and space
8:30 – Sierra Space spins out from Sierra Nevada
9:50 – A **massive** $1.4B Series A
12:45 – Being a unique space and technology company
15:25 – Still bringing people back from space the same way we did in the ‘60s
18:35 – Capturing Apple’s platform play
20:10 – Sierra is building a value ecosystem
22:05 – What makes the period of time we’re currently in so profound?
26:00 – Is “early internet age” the right analogy for space?
28:29 – Low-cost transportation lowers barriers to LEO
32:50 – Making low earth orbit (LEO) accessible and affordable
37:15 – There’s something extraordinary about the Pale Blue Dot
40:10 – Understanding the significance of Earth
41:50 – ‘For All Mankind’
43:53 – When is Tom going to space?