Startup aerospace contractor Bluestaq has a new downtown Colorado Springs office that is more clubhouse than cubicle farm.
With a shuffleboard table, old-school video games, snack bars and bar-bars, the company says the place is custom-built as a nest for the software engineers and space experts on its growing employee roster.
“Everything we have done at Bluestaq is to create an environment where highly creative people thrive,” explained Rebecca Decker, the firm’s chief operating officer.
The office is just one sign that Bluestaq is part of the youth-friendly “new space” movement that is turning the industry upside down a half-century after the Apollo missions.
Under a Space Force contract, Bluestaq compiles and analyzes the information that fills the service’s “Unified Data Library.” That information helps prevent collisions in orbit for 3,500 businesses, government and military agencies, the intelligence community and others in 25 countries.
“With every collision, space traffic management gets harder,” explained Seth Harvey, Bluestaq CEO and a co-founder of the firm.
Wrecks on Interstate 25 can tie up the freeway for hours. A wreck in orbit can involve objects slamming head-on at 18,000 mph, creating clouds of debris that clog orbital paths around the planet for generations.
And the vehicles involved are a lot more expensive to replace: Some satellites can top $1 billion.
Some of the orbital highways closest to earth are also getting crowded. Massive constellations of satellites including SpaceX’s Starlink have put hundreds of satellites into low-Earth orbit in the past two years.
And the cost to reach that orbit has dropped significantly as new, reusable rockets take flight, with payloads going up from as little as $1,000 per pound, down from $10,000 a few years ago.
That puts the high-tech space traffic cops at Bluestaq in high demand.
The 3-year-old firm started with four employees and has already soared toward 100 — with more hires to come.
Hiring those top-flight software engineers is why the company has an office that’s, well, not an office.
“It’s meant to compete with Amazon, Google and Facebook,” Harvey said.
Compete with Amazon? Bluestaq has even set up an online marketplace to connect the Space Force with space technology vendors.
The online marketplace is designed to cut a process that once took the military years to navigate down to seconds. It features preapproved vendors offering vetted products that the Pentagon can buy as quickly as consumers can whistle up a new phone charger from Amazon.
“It’s like Amazon for space situational awareness data,” Harvey said.