The company for cheaply mass-producing cubesats and their components — formed by two brothers while attending college last year — has shipped its first product.
RadioBro, the company founded by Mark and Eric Becnel, reached its first product milestone with a mini-satellite communications transceiver. “We prototyped it in June and did a production run,” says Mark Becnel, company president, who is also finishing up his aerospace engineering master’s degree at UAH. His brother, Eric, who is RadioBro vice president and chief engineer, graduated in 2013. “We accomplished some pre-sales and then did a full run of 100 units,” Becnel says. The MiniSatCom is offered in a variety of kits.
They now are developing a cubesat core that
will save cubesat developers the six months to two years of development time that’s normally required to make a disparate stack of various products work together to serve the same function, Becnel says. If the cubesat is built to generally accepted standards, the core will be plug and play, he says.
These guys have the right idea for space development. Instead of looking for jobs with other companies or NASA, they found a need in the aerospace industry and are filling it, cheaply and efficiently and thus saving everybody time and money. The result: They make money themselves selling their product.
The competition heats up: Two brothers, also college students, have formed a company to build cubesats for researchers.
Mark and Eric Becnel are aiming their company Radiobro at providing turnkey cube satellite services to researchers who have experiments they’d like to fly, but who don’t have the resources to build their own satellites to fly them. “There’s an unfilled niche there in supplying a need if a scientist wants to take an experiment and fly it in space,” Eric Becnel said. “The idea is to provide that researcher with an off-the-shelf solution.”
The solution will encompass both the hardware and software necessary for the research to take place and be monitored, the brothers said. “Maybe you’ve got a launch opportunity and a window to launch,” Mark Becnel said. “We can help you by delivering that satellite in as fast as 12 months.”
This is the kind of creative capitalism the American aerospace industry hasn’t seen from its new engineers in years. In my experience giving lectures at student chapters of the AIAA, aerospace students have routinely been focused on looking for a job, either at NASA or with one of the big aerospace companies. These guys are instead trying to create their own. I say, they have the right idea, and have picked the right venue at exactly the right time. If they do it right, they and their company Radiobro stand to be a big success.