Interview: Dr Markus Knapek, founder and CCO, Mynaric
We caught up with Dr Markus Knapek, a co-founder of Mynaric, a Germany- and USA-based laser communications company founded in 2009.
Mynaric is the leader in designing, manufacturing and delivering high-speed laser communication products and services, applicable as backbone connectivity solutions for aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), high altitude platforms (HAPS), satellites and satellite constellations and their respective ground stations on a global scale.
What prompted you to set up Mynaric? What were its founding remits?
My co-founder Joachim Horwath and I had gained a wealth of experience in laser communication at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and we realized that here was a highly marketable technology that could transform future telecommunication networks.
So we left DLR to start working on the commercialization of this technology that had – up to this point – been focused on standalone, one-off government-funded projects.
Very soon after setting up, we saw the direction the market was moving in – with companies such as SpaceX and Facebook planning multi-unit constellations of satellites and UAVs – and knew that there would be a need for a backbone network that could stitch these constellations together and then deliver broadband speed connectivity back to Earth.
Why laser communications? How is the technology different to what currently exists?
Without doubt it is data rate. Laser communication can transmit amounts of data that existing RF technology just cannot match. Our products allow up to 10Gbps – and we are working on 100Gbps – but terabit speeds are more or less just around the corner. These speeds, which have recently been demonstrated to reach over 13Tbps, provide just the type of future-proofing that next-generation telecommunication networks need to supply.
When you throw in the fact that laser communication offers cheaper cost-per-bit and far greater levels of security of transmission over RF, then it really is a no-brainer for the constellation builders.
Mynaric ground terminal GS400 inside dome. Credit Mynaric
How does Mynaric differentiate itself from other companies working in the same field?
Our business strategy predominantly focuses on establishing ourselves as a serial producer of laser communication terminals. Whether it is for space, airborne or ground segments, we are working on positioning ourselves as the go-to supplier of this technology for the aerospace networks market.
Indeed, we underwent an IPO last year and floated on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in order to generate the funds to finance this transfer from a development company to a serial manufacturer.
We believe we are the leading company capable of producing the sheer numbers of laser communication products the constellation builders need.
Some of our competitors are experienced in delivering highly advanced, one-off items for government or military, but we have been set on serial producing for the commercial sector for some time now. We see this giving us a real advantage over our nearest competition. In the end it is all about costs when you want to roll out constellations with hundreds or thousands of network nodes. Serial production is key to achieve the economies of scale needed to make the business plans of constellations work.
Where is Mynaric at currently?
We are in the process of moving the entire company into serial manufacture. It is a hell of a task but having already delivered products to clients, we have been able to harness these processes and procedures and streamline them to steer and drive forward our physical move from a development company to a production company.
Thankfully, our production lines will be coming online at just the right time to coincide with the constellations that are now starting to be built in low Earth orbit.
Mynaric will be exhibiting at our sister show Space Tech Expo Europe in Bremen, Germany from 19 - 21 November, 2019 in stand C102.