UKSA supported Catapult business sprint experience:

LENA Space

The Satellite Application Catapult delivers business impact in a variety of ways, and one of the ways we work with the wider community is through a programme of business sprints for companies, supported by the UK Space Agency (UKSA). These sprints look at specific areas within young and growing businesses to help them define their business strategy, and plan for a successful future.

LENA Space first met the Catapult at the beginning of 2017, and were invited to take part in the UKSA sprint process as they fulfilled key criteria. The sprint process ultimately delivered a financial model which LENA Space have been able to use for internal strategy development and externally for activities such as raising investment. They have also been identified as a potential user of the Catapult’s Westcott facility in the future.

LENA Space

LENA Space are a young SME (founded 2016) developing inexpensive and high-performance turbopumps for rocket engines. With a heritage in propulsion, LENA were awarded an NSTP3 grant by UKSA for turbopump developments in 2017, and have since focused on core R&D of the turbomachinery and exploring other applications for their technology. This has led to them identifying portable fire-fighting pumps as one potential terrestrial application. LENA Space are pursuing advanced manufacturing techniques to produce their turbopumps and have announced a partnership with Oerlikon, the large Swiss technology and manufacturing company, to explore additive manufacturing practices for space machinery.

Rationale for sprint selection

The Catapult first met with LENA Space at the beginning of 2017 through our SME support team. After discussing the concept of a sprint, LENA Space were invited to take part in the UKSA sprint process for three main reasons:

  • They requested a clearly defined area of support – financial projections;
  • Selection was at a time when LENA Space’s primary area of focus (turbomachinery for small launch vehicles) was a key strategic focus for the UK space industry, with £50m of UKSA support for satellite launch activities and further support for the launch vehicle supply chain in the UK;
  • Their focus area has close alignment with previous UKSA areas of concentration, e.g. investment in National Space Propulsion Facility and financing an incubation programme partly focused on startups innovating in rocket propulsion.

Final outcomes provided

  • A financial model (v1 – considering revenue streams for turbopumps, alternative applications, and test facility);
  • A financial model (v2 – considering revenue streams just for turbopumps and alternative applications);
  • A slide deck summarising the outputs of the sprint including
    • Business Model Canvas; Markets Sizing; Competitors; Potential Customers; Technological roadmap; Design frameworks; Financial model interpretation.
  • A competitor’s intelligence pack of information on the primary competitor;
  • Research papers from the International Astronautical Congress related to turbomachinery.

The UKSA-funded sprint has thus allowed the Catapult to help LENA Space gain a better financial understanding of the market opportunity open to them.

What next?

We will provide support towards finding suitable incubation/acceleration programme to sustain Lena Space’s R&D effort.

“The expertise and objectivity of the business sprint team provided some valuable insight into the business model and financial structure for LENA Space. This has accelerated our understanding and positioning with customers, grant bodies and investors, whilst bringing a design thinking approach to the wider team. The activity has strengthened LENA’s relationship with the Catapult and ongoing discussions are in place to explore further opportunities for both parties. I would recommend the sprint to start-ups and SME’s in the space industry.”

Natasha Allden, CCO and Co-Founder LENA Space

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