Entrepreneur interview – Marcell Tessenyi

March 6, 2020

This month, we had the pleasure of getting to know Marcell Tessenyi, CEO and Co-Founder of Blue Skies Space. We learn about how his company is challenging the traditional method for launching scientific space missions.

 

  1. Where did you start your career and what roles were you involved in?

I started my career by doing a PhD in astrophysics at University College London, during which I worked on science performance predictions and the project management for a European Space Agency (ESA) mission.

 

  1. What drew you to taking up a career in astronomy and subsequently setting up Blue Skies Space?

I’ve always been interested in space. Because of this I studied physics and astronomy at university, and during my degree I learned about Exoplanets – planets that have been discovered outside of our solar system. I found this topic fascinating, so I applied for a PhD to work on a new ESA space mission led by Prof. Giovanna Tinetti. During this period, I saw that the established method for launching a scientific space mission was slow, expensive and highly frustrating. This got us thinking about an alternative way to deliver satellites and this was the seed that eventually turned into Blue Skies Space, which we co-founded with Prof. Giovanna Tinetti and with Prof. Jonathan Tennyson.

 

  1. What exactly is the Twinkle Space Mission and what would the outcome of a successful mission be?

The Twinkle Space Mission is a new satellite that will be offering a unique capability to scientists around the world. It is a space-based telescope primarily designed to measure the visible and infrared light passing through and emitted by exoplanet atmospheres. Therefore, Twinkle will provide information on a planet’s temperature, chemical composition and the distribution of clouds in its atmosphere. Insights into these far-away worlds will also help scientists understand better the context of our own planetary system in our universe. This capability is currently not offered to scientists.

A successful mission would result in satisfied customers with a desire for more data through subsequent satellites, and a major impact on the science knowledge in this research area. This will pave the way for a series of satellites addressing dozens of science topics through the same model.

 

  1. What were some of the challenges in setting up Blue Skies Space?

The biggest hurdle we faced was credibility, both in terms of the capital required and being able to launch a science satellite, exclusively done by major space agencies. People are used to the established model, as inefficient as it is, and we are challenging this. We have addressed these challenges with achievements like getting the support of the European Space Agency as well as the engagement of major manufactures, namely Airbus and ABB.

 

  1. How is your business model different to the more conventional business model?

We are the first company delivering space science data from satellites commercially; we call our model “Space Science as a Service”. Current science satellites are exclusively provided by space agencies. Essentially we are replicating what happened with telecommunication satellites in the 1970s – take something out of the public sector and into the private sector. However, we are replicating a proven data access model where universities buy in to use  ground telescopes.

 

  1. Where do you see the company going in the future?

My first answer to this has to be space, obviously! Twinkle is our first satellite and we hope it provides proof that this model works and the market is keen on the data. Subsequently, we will launch a series of satellites targeting different science areas and different communities, allowing us to grow Blue Skies Space into a highly attractive commercial proposition.

 

  1. What is the most important piece of advice you’ve ever been given and by whom?

Whatever you decide to embark on, do it properly. My granddad gave me this advice when I was a kid.

 

  1. In terms of your career, what has been your proudest moment?

Definitely our first commercial sale. We’ve even framed the bank transfer notice!

 

Quick Fire

  1. As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? A Lego designer
  2. What planet would you like to most visit and why? Trantor – a fictional planet from a science fiction series called The Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov. It’s the buzzing capital city of a galactical empire. I read these books as a kid and inspired me to pursue a career in the space sector.
  3. One thing you couldn’t live without? Good coffee!
  4. Name one person, past or present you would like to have dinner with? Elon Musk

 

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