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Phase II : The Vehicle

Posted by on December 20, 2018

Often times, I get a confused look from people trying to figure out what I am doing. One day I’m in Silicon Valley talking to VC’s, then there’s news of being in Canada for the CDL program, next I’m in a Biotech conference in Bangalore talking about Nanotube-Silk, there’s an announcement of being part of a DARPA challenge, then I’m in Delhi taking an interview with the British High Commission, the French Consulate in Bangalore. Confused? Read along to find out more

As a teenager, I dreamed of going to Mars in my own big rocket. With time, the dream became a vision to enable humans to transition from Sapiens to Spaciens (A species that has learned to live and thrive in Space).

As described in a previous post , the search for the one thing that would be fundamental to realize the grand vision led me to Carbon Nanotubes. Nanotubes are to space just as Silicon is to Electronics; they would be the fundamental building block in our conquest of space. I spent the last 16 years researching and realizing technology to manufacture Carbon Nanotubes with a high repeatability. This is what NoPo did; thanks to help from parents, brother, family, friends and later the Governments of Karnataka & India. Nanotubes are a wonder material with numerous other applications in areas of Biotechnology, medicine, electronics, water etc.

Once the first Nanotubes were made, I began looking at applications esp space use cases. In hindsight, companies is built to create value for its shareholders. It needs to think of profits from Day 1 but this wasn’t the case with NoPo. I believe in creating value and then going after the money. NoPo has created tremendous shareholder value but this hadn’t translated to Dividends, profits or an exit plan. All of the company’s earnings have been ploughed back into R&D as we improved production techniques and developed deep expertise in Heat, Pressure, Vacuum, Control Systems etc. Thanks to the investor patience, we have been able to get this far. Another strategic move was that the US patent for HiPCO with my co-founder as a co-inventor was valid till Nov 2018. Starting today, NoPo Nanotechnologies owns the Trademark, HiPCO. It is a small but significant step in the journey to profitability for our backers. There are multiple applications of Nanotubes, but we can’t really work on everything at once. So, we went with a systematic approach by looking at different sectors, built prototypes, gauged market and reached out to potential end users to see if it is an area with a big pain point and with no solution in sight. We made water filter membranes using aligned Nanotubes for Sewage treatment, Nanotube Silk for Clothes, Super Black coatings with linear performance for Star Trackers, tested Nickel Nanotube composites. With each prototype we then went out to see if it made a difference and how much people were willing to pay. Either the margins were extremely low or the markets were too small or there was an alternate cheaper technology. With each application, we went all in and developed a functional prototype; this is what took us to forums such as Water filtration, Black Coatings, Silk, Space etc. People within NoPo and close friends know the phenomenal energy and dedication of everyone working on the project. NoPo is a great place for people wanting to make a difference to the world and to produce output equivalent to 100 smart Humans.

The visit to Silicon Valley added a new word to my lexicon, ‘Unapologetic Capitalism’. It is to do things that benefit other people without being afraid to receive money for it. This along with inputs received as part of the IIGP 2.0 program re-oriented NoPo’s focus from technology to sales. The huge amount of knowledge we had built around Nanotubes would now be sold to help others.

When it comes to the one product we would be making, we did a detailed analysis of 150 markets ranging from Jewellery to Spacecraft. We looked at areas where we could make a big difference to the world while also being able to create continuous value to shareholders. This led us to a team favorite: a solid structure made of Carbon Nanotubes designed for use in Spacecraft. It’s extremely strong, light weight, radiation resistant, environment friendly, expands very little with heat, heat resistant, and bio compatible. This kind of a material has been known for a long time as a C-C composite. We are making it 10x easier, faster and cheaper to produce. Initial use case is as a structural material for satellites and spacecraft and eventually into every part of life on earth and space. A natural progression for such a building block is rockets.

This is exactly what we are doing with Pythom. Pythom is probably the most unlikely group of people to build a rocket . The team is made of extreme adventurers with a reputation for building things, surviving and pulling off miracles with minimal resources. Tom and Tina have climbed the 3 poles. I met Tina and Tom through Sven; we all share a common passion for going to Mars. We are disturbed by the non-existence of a National mission so set out to build whatever doesn’t exist. Tina and Tom have been at it much longer than me and met a large number of folks in the industry. We applied for the US DARPA launch challenge with the rocket that was being designed to land on Mars surface. Now that we’ve been selected; it’s exciting. The rocket would potentially some of the Carbon Nanotube structures.

Space is so vast that it doesn’t belong to one person or one country. Everyone has a say in it. It’s great to have friends than skeptics. By engaging with Government and nations as partners, I’m trying to build a friendly atmosphere where everyone knows we are not a threat and only mean good for the world. I spend time getting to know Bueraucrats and use every opportunity to connect with Nation states. Britain, France, US, India for now and hopefully Russia, China, Australia and every other space faring nation in the near future.

By the end of Phase-II of this incredible journey, we should have all of the technology to land a human on Mars.

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