"We reached many achievements, but we still need 7 million Euros to go on the market. We are looking for investors, better if from Europe, as we would like to stay here”, Luca Rossettini, the CEO of D-Orbit, says.

D-Orbit, a start-up from Florence developing devices for space debris mitigation, opened in March 2014 a development center in Lisbon (Portugal). In 2013, it won the Caixa Capital Award in the Products & Services track of the Building Global Innovators (BGI). The new branch in Portugal is also useful to look for partners and to participate in projects for the Horizon 2020 European Community space program and the European Space Agency calls.

“Our industry is capital intensive and it takes time to develop, but it is extremely profitable. D-Orbit is in talks with few customers and the first contracts are expected to be signed by 2015", Rossettini explains. The start-up was born from a business idea that aimed to find a solution to space pollution due to the debris of satellites that fill the space around the Earth. Before its launch, the company gained a seed investment by TTVenture – the main Italian venture capital fund dedicated to technology transfer – through TTSeed. Later, also Quadrivio Capital SGR – one of the leading Private Equity in Italy – invested in this start-up.

D-Orbit was established in 2011 at the Incubatore Universitario Fiorentino (Florence, Italy) where the administrative offices and the research team are still located. Later, a subsidiary of the company was opened in 2012 at Simi Valley (California) for commercial purposes with the US market. In 2013 they also opened some laboratories at the ComoNext Incubator near Milan (Italy). But the company core remains in Tuscany. OPTOSCANA – the Innovation Pole of Optoelectronics – and Space and Toscana Spazio – a network of companies in the aerospace industry – are its partners. It is also enrolled in Confindustria Firenze, the Italian organization representing the manufacturing and service companies.

D-Orbit develops decommissioning devices to be installed on artificial satellites before a launch. They are able to bring them back into the atmosphere and destroy them when they stop working, providing a sustainable access to space. There is a lot of work to do. Up to now, more than 6000 satellites have been launched, however only 1100 are still operational. The majority of the others are uncontrolled orbiting around the Earth.

Last November, the first experimental launch of the "brain" of the decommissioning device (Alice2) from Yasni space center (Russia) was made. At the same time, in Los Angeles (US), D-Orbit was awarded the Red Herring Top 100 Global Competition as one of the 100 most innovative companies in the world.

The company participated in many competitions: it was a finalist in the Mind the Bridge Business Plan Competition; it won the Fondazione Bassetti Prize, awarded to the most responsible start-up company; it came second at the 2011 edition of the Start-Cup Toscana Business Plan Competition; and it was second in Il Talento delle Idee business plan competition – an Italian national competition organized by Unicredit, the second Italian bank.

Picture: Luca Rossettini in D-Orbit office in Florence

Elisabetta Bevilacqua