Spotlight On: Flavia Tata Nardini, Fleet Space Technologies
Flavia Tata Nardini, the CEO, and Co-founder of Fleet Space Technologies, has embarked on a captivating journey that took her from working with some of the world's most prestigious space organisations, including the European Space Agency (essentially the NASA of Europe), to the shores of Australia, a country lacking a space agency at the time.
A true representation of a founder with an ambition to tackle the world's greatest problems, Flavia possesses unwavering enthusiasm for space exploration and technology. This passion led her to co-found an educational startup that empowered schoolchildren to construct their own 3D printed nanosatellites. During this venture, there was the realisation of the immense potential of this technology to transform the way businesses operated worldwide, eventually culminating in the launch of Fleet Space Technologies. Read on to learn more about her extraordinary founder journey.
Blackbird: You've had a fascinating career. Could you please tell us a bit about your background and your work before meeting your co-founder and starting Fleet Space Technologies?
Flavia Tata Nardini:
Although I grew up in Rome, my professional journey began in the Netherlands.
After graduating, I had the privilege of working with two esteemed organizations in the space industry – the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO). At the start of my career, I was immersed in the world of propulsion design and testing, which fascinated me.
As a propulsion designer and tester, I delved into the complexities of rocket technology, working to develop micro-propulsion systems, deorbiting motors, cool gas generators, igniters, and propellants. The challenges were big, but I found immense satisfaction in pushing the boundaries of what was possible in space propulsion.
Over time, I grew into the role of a project manager, overseeing the development and execution of various propulsion projects. This experience allowed me to gain a broader perspective on the space industry and the complexities involved in bringing ambitious projects to life.
During this phase of my career, a pivotal realization dawned upon me – the untapped potential of small satellites. I saw the immense possibilities they offered, yet it was disheartening to witness that very few in Europe shared the same enthusiasm for their commercial viability.
Despite this, I remained steadfast in my belief that small satellites held the key to transforming the satellite communication landscape. The drive to explore this untapped potential was the catalyst that ultimately led me on a path to meet my co-founder and co-create Fleet Space Technologies.
Blackbird: When you moved to Australia, there was no space agency and only a single space startup. Could you explain the transition from starting Fleet as a program with school kids to what it has become today?
Flavia Tata Nardini:
In 2014 when I moved to Adelaide, finding a job was challenging because Australia didn’t have a space agency then, and most space-related activity was in the defence sector, where I wasn’t eligible to work. It was a stark contrast to the industry landscape I was familiar with in Europe. However, I saw this as an opportunity, a blank canvas where I could make a profound impact and bring my vision to life. So I co-founded an educational startup, Launchbox, enabling schoolchildren to build their own 3D printed nanosatellites and launch them into the stratosphere! When we began, we had a bold idea – to ignite the passion for space exploration and technology in young minds. We launched a program that allowed school kids to build and launch their own small satellites, sparking their curiosity and nurturing a new generation of space enthusiasts.
As the program gained traction, it became evident that the potential of small satellites extended far beyond just educational initiatives. We realised that these tiny spacecraft could disrupt the satellite communication industry and transform the way businesses operated worldwide.
With a clear vision in mind, we transitioned to a full-fledged space startup. We assembled a team of brilliant minds, each driven by the same passion for space exploration, with a mission to build a global network of small satellites that would provide seamless and affordable data connectivity to industries across the world.
Of course, this transition came with its fair share of challenges. We faced obstacles in securing funding for our ambitious project and had to overcome technical hurdles to develop cutting-edge satellite technology.
As the global space industry evolved, so did Fleet Space Technologies. We embraced emerging technologies to continually improve the performance and capabilities of our satellites. Today, Fleet Space Technologies stands as a leading player in the satellite communication space. We have transformed from a humble program with school kids to a pioneering space company. Our dedication to innovation, customer-centric solutions, and our mission to bridge the digital divide has earned us the trust of industries worldwide.
Blackbird: Space technology and space exploration have received a lot more attention over the past five years or so. You have been working in the industry since graduating. What changes have you witnessed during your career?
Flavia Tata Nardini:
As I reflect on my career in the space industry, I can't help but feel a sense of wonder at the remarkable changes that have unfolded over the years. As a young engineer, it was during this time that I first glimpsed the potential of small satellites – compact yet powerful devices that could revolutionise space exploration.
Over the years, I watched with awe as the space industry underwent a remarkable transformation. The once niche sector of space exploration expanded into a bustling commercial space market. Private companies were now vying for a spot in the cosmos, and I was proud to be at the forefront of this revolution.
Our team at Fleet Space Technologies poured their hearts and souls into creating an expansive network of small satellites that crisscrossed the skies, providing seamless data connectivity to industries far and wide. From energy and mining to logistics and beyond, our technology was empowering businesses with the tools they needed to thrive.
In the midst of our journey, we witnessed awe-inspiring advancements in satellite technology. Miniaturisation became a reality, allowing us to pack incredible capabilities into compact spacecraft. Reusable rocket technology emerged, slashing launch costs and making space more accessible than ever before.
The world was awakening to the wonders of space exploration, and I felt an immense sense of pride knowing that Fleet Space Technologies played a role in shaping this new era. As our satellites orbited the Earth, connecting people and industries across borders, I knew we were part of something much greater than ourselves.
Looking back on my journey, I can't help but smile at the challenges we overcame and the dreams we realised. The small satellites I once envisioned in my early career had evolved into a vast constellation, empowering humanity to explore and expand our reach into the cosmos.
As I continue my journey, I eagerly anticipate the future chapters that will unfold in the ever-evolving story of space exploration.
Blackbird: What is the main problem that Fleet Space Technologies is focused on solving, and what key lessons have you learned throughout your problem-solving journey?
Flavia Tata Nardini:
Picture this: the world, vast and interconnected, yet there were pockets of darkness where the light of connectivity failed to reach. It was in these remote and underserved regions that I saw a pressing problem that tugged at my heartstrings. As I embarked on the journey of co-founding Fleet Space Technologies, the vision of a connected world drove us forward. Our mission was to bridge the global connectivity gap, to reach those left behind and empower them with the transformational power of data connectivity.
We are also deeply committed to contribute to the world's pressing challenge of reaching net zero leveraging EXOSPHERE BY FLEET, our cutting-edge technology. We recognize that the transition to clean-air mobility technologies is crucial in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the effects of climate change. EXOSPHERE BY FLEET holds immense potential in facilitating this global shift. This solution not only reduces the time it takes to find valuable minerals but also enhances accuracy in drilling targets, thereby increasing efficiency and minimizing environmental impacts associated with mining activities. With ExoSphere, we aim to empower the mineral exploration industry with a faster, more sustainable, and less expensive route to finding vital mineral deposits. By streamlining the process, we contribute to solving the pressing global priority to decarbonize mobility and support the transition to cleaner and more sustainable technologies.
Embracing emerging technologies, we embarked on the path of creating unique solutions, pushing the boundaries of what was deemed possible. With each step forward, we kept our eyes firmly on our customers. Understanding their needs and requirements became our compass, guiding us toward the creation of tailored solutions that addressed the specific pain points faced by various industries.
Apart from building the technology and actually launching our first nanosatellites, the main challenges were the same as those facing any new start-up: raising capital and coming up with a viable long-term business model. It took time for investors and the industry to realise that interconnecting IoT sensors on a massive scale had the potential to solve large-scale problems, especially in defence, energy, and mining. But with customer worldwide, successful Series B and C funding rounds behind us, and our market valuation now standing at over A$350m, the message seems to be getting through!
Blackbird: Lastly, what excites you the most about the future that Fleet Space Technologies is building?
Flavia Tata Nardini:
At Fleet Space, we consider ourselves explorers, united by our shared passion and inspiration for space exploration. As we forge ahead into the future, we are driven by our passion for space exploration, dedication to diversity and inclusion, and our unwavering commitment to making a positive impact on our planet. With our eyes on the stars and our feet firmly grounded in creating a connected and sustainable future, we will continue to pioneer the frontiers of the space industry, one satellite at a time.
What excites me the most about the future that Fleet Space Technologies is building is the immense potential for positive impact on a global scale. As we continue to expand and leverage cutting-edge technology, we are empowering businesses, governments, and communities worldwide with seamless and affordable connectivity. The thought that our work is breaking down barriers and connecting even the most remote and underserved regions really excites me. I firmly believe that Fleet Space Technologies can make a real difference for our planet. Our satellites enable the discovery of valuable mineral deposits without drilling, mitigating environmental challenges. Our commitment to sustainability and responsible practices ensures that as we explore the cosmos, we do so with a sense of stewardship, minimizing our impact on the environment. This commitment to sustainability not only guides our journey but also sets an example for the entire space industry.
As a woman in a leadership position in the Australian space industry, I am acutely aware of the importance of breaking down barriers and championing gender equity. It's not just about meeting quotas; it's about recognizing that diversity is our strength, and everyone deserves an equal chance to succeed. Our company embraces over 30 different nationalities and by normalizing women's presence and involvement in the space industry, we aim to take gender out of the equation altogether. Together, we champion diversity and inclusion. In addition we are committed to introducing space technology to the next generation. Through our STEM program, we bring the wonder of space and technology to South Australian primary and secondary school students. The enthusiasm and excitement of the children as they explore space and dream of walking on the moon fills me with unbridled joy and inspiration.
Additionally, the opportunities for innovation are boundless. I am thrilled to witness how our technology will continue to evolve and disrupt industries, solving real-world challenges and transforming the way we live and work.