Matija Milenovic, Co-Founder & CEO of porkchop
As a species, we humans do not have the advantage of thick fur to keep us warm in the winter, four legs to outrun predators in the plains, nor wings to rule the skies.
Instead, for all our history we’ve had to rely on innovation, on working together, and setting ambitious goals.
These three traits: innovation, collaboration & ambition, allowed us as an “underdog” species, to achieve incredible feats which defy all odds one would place on a primitive species that is relatively small, slow, and physically weak. In the beginning, it allowed groups of us to courageously band together to hunt much larger, more powerful mammoths (perhaps too well), to build houses, craft tools, engineer vehicles and ultimately, societies. Early humans would imagine what sort of things would help improve their daily lives, and over many generations of innovation, this compounded into a vastly improved way of living for everyone.
Modern humans are not very different from our ancestors. We still rely on the innovation, collaboration and ambition of the human race to keep advancing. Things are evolving so quickly that our ancestors simply wouldn’t be able to fathom all we’ve achieved.
Myself and my co-founder, Victor, have been working on porkchop for the good part of three years now. We started with a question: how can we improve people’s quality of life using space?
Our initial answer to this was to build a propulsion system for tiny satellites. Nanosatellites are increasingly being used to provide internet access in remote areas, to monitor natural disasters in real-time, detect climate-change trends, and so much more. They are also becoming cheaper to build and launch, acting as a force of democratisation to reaching space and offering space education across the world.
Our belief was that if we can make a propulsion system which isn’t expensive, doesn’t take up too much space, and which is easy-to-use, then we will be helping these people make the most of space. They can extend their lifetime in orbit, avoid collisions with space debris, and reduce the time it takes to deorbit themselves. The direct consequence is that these satellites could now help society even more than before.
With this powerful goal in mind, we developed our first product, porkchop X. Much like humanity’s survival odds during prehistoric times, the development of porkchop X completely defied all odds, that even we as founders and inventors had placed on it.
The product’s development started in mid-2019 in a basement. Our experience with solid-propellant electromagnetic propulsion, along with our funding, was pretty much non-existent. Our desire and passion to make space more accessible and improve people’s lives was, however, an immutable driving force.
Despite these barriers, we ultimately designed and built a product which is radically different to any other solution out there. It was truly the result of innovating our way out of all the issues we encountered, working together to combine our shared experiences from other projects, and pushing our luck as much as we could when it came to developing something which looks like it’s from the future.
After over 2 years of experimentation, research and development, euphoric highs and deep lows, porkchop filed a patent which enabled the miniaturisation of the electronics required to power and control the thrusters. This joy was second only to our recent launch into orbit on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launcher. I imagine that this is the same feeling those prehistoric humans had when they innovated, collaborated and were ambitious enough to take on mammoths multiple times larger than them.
I also imagine that this only fed their ambition.
porkchop X is just the beginning, and only represents <0.1% of what we will achieve. We have already proven that we can build a space company with little resources or expertise. Now we want to prove that a we can build a space company which not only has global, but interplanetary impact, and which improves the lives of all humans in the solar system.
We’re going to do this is by developing porkchop M, and subsequently establishing an interplanetary economy within our solar system.
Today, space travel is very much in its infancy from an infrastructure standpoint. For most of spaceflight’s history, satellites have been big and expensive, and were launched on dedicated missions, inducing uneconomical costs. While ridesharing has allowed those costs to be split amongst many customers sharing that launch vehicle (rocket), it inevitably cannot deploy each satellite into each orbit it requires to operate optimally. On the contrary, dedicated small launchers are perfect for this, but they tend to come with a premium price tag.
It’s clear that we need to re-think how we do space. It’s clear we need to re-use.
porkchop M is a reusable in-space logistics vehicle which we hope will bridge the gap between the orbit where a rideshare launcher drops off satellites and the orbit those satellites actually want to be in.
Initially, porkchop M will mainly be used for rapidly deploying megaconstellations in Low-Earth Orbit, but our ambitions are to provide other logistical services in the future. We also plan to do this beyond LEO, around the moon, Mars, and beyond.
Our reason to exist is simple. If we can make the solar system as well-connected and accessible a metro system, it paves the way for future innovative, collaborative and ambitious humans in future generations to do things we today cannot imagine.