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Ad Astra per Aspera
The Charter Space Story
The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. —Carl Sagan
Above: Every ship has a ballast, every home a foundation, and every system an indispensable infrastructure.
John F. Kennedy stands alone as perhaps the best orator in American history.
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His poise peerless and intonation without match, JFK shepherded the United States through many a consequential event, from the construction of the Berlin Wall to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Among his many bold, memorable lines, those delivered during Kennedy’s Address at Rice University on the Nation's Space Effort were—quite literally—out of this world. In 1962 he boldly declaimed:
But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.
Right indeed Kennedy was.
Unfortunately, it was, is, and continues to be so very hard that the last time man set foot on the cratered surface was 1972—a full fifty-one years ago as I type these words.
There’s a reason why space is the final frontier.
“Nothing worth doing is easy.”
This statement borders on banal trope given how often it’s trotted out by so-called gurus and snake oil salesmen.
That said, its overuse does not diminish its truth. Tremendous effort is needed for the most meager of outputs—whether arising at the crack of dawn or reading just-one-more bedtime story to your child at night.
Indeed, bold breakthroughs hinge on the generous expenditure of blood, sweat, and tears. When literally defying the laws of gravity, a meager offering just won’t cut it.
When looking up, we often ignore the shoulders on which we stand, the terra firma on which we have built anything and everything that we are able to do. Period.
Society has a way of distancing us from the magnanimous effort required for mechanical, awesome feats.
Take the red-hot pistons churning and pumping under a Corvette’s sleek hood.
The steel rails atop timber ties that support many a train’s thundering passage.
The reinforced concrete that prevents a skyscraper’s sway from turning into catastrophic collapse.
Out of sight should not automatically mean out of mind. What is hidden—whether grout, foundations etc—acts as steadying ballast regardless of the forces at work.
Companies take similar, foundational roles.
Charter Space is one such company, serving as the logistics backbone for the future of spaceflight.
As you can see, a strong pillar is more than needed:
Anna-Sofia Lesiv sets the scene well in a recent piece:
Just 10 years ago, the space industry seemed like it was going nowhere. Today it’s buzzing with an exponentially growing number of satellites, creating opportunities for new businesses to service and support the thousands of vessels orbiting the planet. Even NASA has shown renewed signs of life with its announcement of the Artemis program in 2017, which aims to send more missions to the moon for the first time since the Apollo program ended and to establish a lunar base camp at the end of this decade.
After a few dark decades, we’re finally building the space economy we’ve been dreaming of for hundreds of years…
Today, [the number of active satellites] has jumped to over 7,000. In large part thanks to SpaceX, we find ourselves undergoing a massive transition in which entrepreneurs and tinkerers can launch machines into orbit. Satellites are playing increasingly critical roles in navigation, weather monitoring, telecommunications, national security, and more.
As the number of satellites and space-based services continues to grow, many aspects of our world will change—how we connect to the internet, use our technology devices, and even farm.
Charter is building the Operating System to make building and launching spacecraft simple. It aims to become the foundational layer upon which the entirety of space runs, grows, and thrives.
Put simply, companies like Charter enable the SpaceXs, NASAs, and JPLs of the world to do what they do. Sans these propellants, they would be all sitting ducks.
Above: “Be a duck, remain calm on the surface and paddle like hell underneath.”
Without the little logistical things, the rivets and bolts and zip ties that bind everything that goes into a successful space mission—not just the physical objects but the effort spent, the hours toiled, the innumerable bits of information captured in manifold mediums—everything would come to an undignified, quiet halt.
With enough force, all friction can be overcome—at a cost. A scarce few can afford that price. What of everyone else? And for that matter, what of the opportunities lost when these resources are squandered here when they could be better spent elsewhere?
Ubik (short for ‘ubiquitous”), Charter's collaborative engineering management platform, keeps things moving. Aptly named, it is designed to support the development of all interstellar missions and serves as a declaration about what the platform does and achieves—a state the team calls information ubiquity:
The ability to connect everyone involved in a mission, to enable engineering teams to have a handle on a lot of things, all at once, and interweave knowledge and understanding throughout.
A tool through which everyone knows everything about a satellite mission and any new piece of information can become ubiquitous through data propagation and version-change management.
An operational approach that ensures parity of understanding in a complex environment, where things and bits are normally scattered but, through Ubik, become unified in one place.
Lastly, Ubik is a sub-string of Rubik, which alludes to how Charter helps “multiple parts fit in correctly” for a cohesive picture.
Through Ubik, Charter minimizes engineering hours wasted on manual admin by 60%, helping spacecraft engineering teams streamline processes, automate manual tasks, and more effectively manage logistics, programs, and requirements.
Just as the unprecedented speed and seamless efficiency of digital trading revolutionized financial markets, so too will collaborative spacecraft engineering and logistics coordination software supercharge the commercialization of space. This software, by enabling efficient management and coordination of the spacecraft ‘build, integrate, test, and ship’ cycle, will make satellite operations faster, more efficient, and more seamless.
Charter is backed by some of the most experienced space and SaaS investors on Earth and the progress of co-founders Yuk Chi Chan and Yukun Yin has been nothing short of staggering:
In closed beta with 10 companies and piloting with the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab. 30+ companies waitlisted
Graduated the Techstars Space Accelerator
Received letters of support from NASA JPL and the Department of the US Air Force Digital Transformation Office
Recruited a rockstar team, including a twice-exited aerospace founder, hailing from Microsoft, Meta, Google, Northrop Grumman, NASA JPL, Credit Suisse, Capgemini, and IBM
Development partners include NASA JPL, the UK Space Agency, Leaf Space, RBC Signals, Prewitt Ridge, Digantara, and others
More impressive than these accomplishments are the founders themselves, veterans of both military and startup campaigns.
Yuk Chi Chan is a former Army logistics officer and space lawyer. He also handled mission management at a previous startup building satellite propulsion systems. His research has been published by Springer Nature and the European Space Agency, and he is one of the youngest lawyers to have spoken at the United Nations on space sustainability law. He studied law at Durham University and University College London, after having previously dropped out of high school to enlist in the Army.
What’s more, he is a keen observer, deep thinker, and stellar writer. Take the below excerpt from his piece entitled A Stiff Dose of Awe as proof:
It’s easy to forget about the capital-S ‘Space’ part of space when it’s only discussed in the abstract. I work in the industry and hell, I often forget it too. But to be there, to see it for yourself, to know that once upon a time the bravest people we as a species have ever had the good graces to produce rode this thing up time and time again, is something else.
It reminds you that this was real. We did that.
By God, we really did strap ourselves to pairs of missiles and, with great daring and fortitude, we went to space.
It occurs to me, as a chaser, that through sheer luck and circumstance I too now get to be a part of the next chapter of this great journey. I have wound up as one of the many inheritors of this grand civilisational effort, and with that, I have been charged with the mandate and privilege to use my head, my hands, and my heart to help put us back in space and keep us there…
The darkness retreats upon seeing our ferocity - we have taught it to fear our light.
Because we are charting our path through this universe. We, ordinary people, are doing it - not fictional characters in some young adult fiction novel, or stuffy old men cloistered away in ivory tower observatories. Do not tell me that this is the realm of just the billionaires. They are not building the rocket engines, the landers, the avionics modules and the hyperspectral sensors.
We are. People just like you and me are building this future. And I am constantly awestruck at the fact that I get to be alive at a time where this is all possible, real, and very within reach.
Whew. Take a beat to catch your breath and quiet your goosebumps.
Yukun Yin is a seasoned full-stack software engineer and former Army combat engineer. He specializes in building scalable and reliable enterprise systems. At Credit Suisse, he built data streaming and compliance infrastructure to support product teams across Asia, Australia, and Europe, achieving a 99.999% uptime. He also built DevOps and development infrastructure as the Tech Lead of ME3, before it was acquired by EVOS Esports. Before that, he was an engineer at Airfoil and GovTech Singapore. His research has been published by the IEEE.
Yuk Chi and Yukun have known each other for years, having first served together in the Singapore Army. They have come a long way from basic training, where they slept in beds 10 and 8, respectively, in Section 2, Platoon 4, 6th Company, Basic Military Training Centre School 4.
Brothers-in-arms, from then…
And places beyond the confines of Earth…
In the future Charter will serve as the mortar that holds any endeavor to get to space together—every brick of communication, coordination, compliance, and precision will run through them. Much like how a composer conducts an orchestra with his baton, Ubik will guide the complex symphony required to launch a spacecraft into orbit.
Charter exists to marshal the precise, infinitesimal minutiae where precision isn’t optional, but necessary. When hurtling expensive pieces of metal at the heavens, you’d do well to have operational terra firma via Charter.
With them, it doesn’t have to be rocket science.
Space is so close and yet so far.
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As Charter closes its latest funding round, they look ahead, above, beyond. If Yuk Chi and Yukun are successful, who knows, this may be our future view upon liftoff.
Per my about page, White Noise is a work of experimentation. I view it as a sort of thinking aloud, a stress testing of my nascent ideas. Through it, I hope to sharpen my opinions against the whetstone of other people’s feedback, commentary, and input.
If you want to discuss any of the ideas or musings mentioned above or have any books, papers, or links that you think would be interesting to share on a future edition of White Noise, please reach out to me by replying to this email or following me on Twitter.
With sincere gratitude,
Disclaimer—I am an investor in Charter.