By Fred Grier
Meet Darren Charrier, 22-year-old UC San Diego Triton, co-founder, and CEO of Voyager Space Technologies, which is building artificially intelligent software tools to expedite the design process of satellites by allowing engineers to create and collaborate in real time, all in one place. Charrier, an aerospace engineering student who co-founded Voyager with fellow Triton Faris Hamdi in May 2017, has worked for premier aerospace companies and was recognized as 24under24 by TheMarsGeneration.
Read more below on how Charrier and his team are striving to bring satellite engineering to the cloud.
Backstory: Reflecting back on his childhood, Charrier attributes his desire to build and create bold things to inventor Thomas Edison. “You got this guy who is doing everything from evolving the work culture to changing humanity and pioneering things with huge impact,” he says. “This inspired me to want to do things like that. So I came to UCSD with the ambition to work on projects that would allow me to send things into space, mine the moon for resources, and do all these crazy things.”
During Charrier’s years as an undergrad, he had the opportunity to intern at SpaceX and Moon Express , working as a propulsion engineer to design spacecrafts that orbit the Moon and Mars.
Charrier also served as president of his Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) Chapter, growing a team of 20 to more than 100. His SEDS Chapter scored NASA grant money to develop an open-source rocket engine test stand and launched the Vulcan-1, the first collegiate rocket using liquid fuel from a 3D-printed engine.
Barrier to Entry: As Charrier and his team began their project, it led to the discovery of a common problem in the way hardware is designed. That problem lies in engineers wasting much of their time going back and forth trying to calculate how their work is affecting the rest of the team. So, Charrier and his team pioneered a new approach, automating spacecraft design that lowers the barriers of entry to space.
“Most complex hardware systems are the conglomeration of multiple engineering disciplines, and therefore they must be designed by multiple engineers,” Charrier says. “These engineers use their own type of software to model their work, which forces them into silos where their work must be communicated through the individuals rather than through the software itself.”
Technology: The intelligent software solution, Voyager, is designed to allow spacecraft engineers to accurately and efficiently develop satellites over a cloud network system that handles mission design, reliability requirements, and compliance with software, electrical, and mechanical standards.
“Our AI technology specializes in helping engineers find better design decisions much faster and to optimize their system,” Charrier says. “For example, let’s say you wanted to change a variable or shift a spacecraft to a particular orbit; what typically takes a week to figure out, Voyager cuts that time in half by spotting efficiencies that would be otherwise missed, saving millions of dollars in engineer time and reducing communication to a single source of truth.”
Mission: Charrier shares the origin behind the company’s name: “We named the company after the Voyager space probe, the fastest vehicle ever created by mankind. We want to dream big and bold like the Voyager space probe and help push humanity further out into the solar system.”
Foundation: “We are very fortunate to be surrounded by an amazing group of advisors with cumulative experiences from diverse areas such as large enterprise, sales, information technologies, spacecraft engineering, and go-to-market strategy. Our extensive domain experience allows us to go after a specific niche and have a strong inlet into a market that’s growing rapidly.”
Additionally, Charrier expresses the importance of Voyager’s recent strategic partnership with Amazon Web Services. “With Amazon having the most secure cloud-based service, we are able to leverage this new technology by providing our customers maximum security while partnering with some of the best people in the industry.”
“What’s great about the team at Voyager is our natural tendency to learn, explore, and embrace curiosity,” he adds.
Traction: Voyager has participated in multiple startup accelerator programs around San Diego, including The Basement UCSD, Lightspeed innovations, and Nex3, where the young company has received a great domain of knowledge, invaluable resources, and extraordinary mentorship.
Additionally, the Voyager team has won numerous pitch competitions, including first place at Penn Aerospace, Satellite 2018, and ISDC in Los Angeles.
Voyager released its alpha version this past May, allowing the startup to receive feedback from the largest satellite manufacturers in both Europe and the United States, including big aerospace companies and universities. “After establishing core relationships with these companies, we utilized that traction to raise just under $100,000 in our initial friends and family seed round,” Charrier says.
This funding provided Voyager with enough resources to complete the company’s beta version over the summer, which was released on September 6, 2018.
Light Speed Ahead: It is evident the space industry will continue to increase as technology advances. Charrier, fully aware of the universal problem Voyager is helping to solve, offers a prediction of what to expect from him and his team moving forward: “The space industry is growing super fast. We’re expecting a 10x increase in the number of satellites over the next 10 years. We want to sell this technology to all hardware engineers to use for biomedical technologies, clean energy, drone technology, and much more.”
Voyager is preparing to open a new seed round of financing with a goal of raising $500,000 to expand and bring its product to the market. Charrier explains why this funding amount is sensible: “We are looking to grow our sales team, add additional software integrations, and bring some new talent to our team.”
Space Dreams: Charrier concludes the interview by emphasizing the driving force behind Voyager. “Before I die, I want to help build the first colony on the moon. Right now, the way spacecrafts are designed, it just takes too long. Voyager is imperative for turning this dream into a reality.”
Follow the journey of Charrier and his team as they strive to redefine what’s possible in space by simplifying hardware design.
Editor’s note: Triton Tech is a new, original Fresh Brewed Tech series on UC San Diego students (current and alumni) who are blazing a trail in technology and entrepreneurship. These innovative ideas born in the halls of academia are making a great impact on our ecosystem and beyond. Don’t miss these compelling stories of passion, hard work and problem-solving by the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Like this article? Share below!