From a modest space over a bagel shop near the Carnegie Mellon University campus, a few true believers have created — both literally and figuratively — a launch pad.
Astrobotic is poised to return the U.S. to the surface of the Moon for the first time in almost 50 years with the maiden voyage of Peregrine Mission One, which is scheduled to deliver scientific instruments, technology demonstrations, time capsules and more in mid-2022. If it succeeds, it will be the first American spacecraft to land on the lunar surface since the Apollo missions.
Founded in 2007, Astrobotic defied the odds by breaking into the exclusive space industry and expanding to include a team of 158 people and opening a new 47,000-square-foot headquarters on Pittsburgh’s North Side — the largest private facility in the world dedicated to lunar logistics. Peregrine Mission One will include 15 commercial customers, including NASA, from seven different countries.
More recently, Astrobotic won a $199.5 million contract to deliver NASA’s water-hunting rover to the Moon. To date, the company has more than 60 prior and ongoing NASA and commercial technology contracts worth upwards of $325 million. Chief Executive Officer John Thornton credits the company’s success to its regional roots and work ethic.
Whether it’s in the cloud or on the Moon, business expansion in the technology and innovation space is poised for significant growth in 2022 in the Pittsburgh region. Here are the top five trends to watch in the months ahead:
Going public: Language learning platform Duolingo’s IPO signaled a breakthrough for area tech firms, but look for others to also follow in the footsteps of autonomous vehicle company Aurora Innovation, which raised about $1.8 million using a SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) merger, a route that more companies are expected to use as they go public.
Accelerated autonomy: The region’s strengths in machine learning and artificial intelligence are fueling growth in autonomous vehicles, with new product launches expected from Locomation Inc. in 2022 and Aurora in 2023.
Moon shot: In addition to Astrobotic’s plan to send its Peregrine Lunar Lander into space (see blog post above for additional details), the company also plans to open the Moonshot Museum at its North Side headquarters.
Cloud climbers: Carnegie Mellon University has announced plans to build the world’s first cloud lab in an academic setting, reserving space for the region’s life sciences startup ecosystem. Completion is expected in summer 2022.
Cyber sleuthing: The region’s cybersecurity firms may see a boost from an increasing reliance on internet-connected devices. Best practices and regulatory requirements are expected to evolve to keep pace with potential threats.
“We envision Pittsburgh as a global leader in autonomous patient safety, building on our edge in eds, meds and technology. Healthcare safety technology is at the cottage stage. We’re aiming now for a moonshot, and it should come from Pittsburgh.”
Karen Wolk Feinstein, President and CEO, Jewish Healthcare Foundation on the foundation’s $500K grant to the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative