Stell is Modernizing Aerospace & Defense Workflows that Slow America Down
PLUS: Scientists find water stored inside “glass beads” on the Moon
Good afternoon Earthlings 👽️🖖
The more I learn about the space business, the more I realize there’s a complex network of adjacent industries allowing the business to thrive. Advanced manufacturing. Defense. Industrials. Infrastructure. I can go on. The bold startups in these industries are leveraging software bits to solve tough problems in the world of atoms, and the desire for bold entrepreneurs to create a better future for us Earthlings is inspiring to watch:
Varda builds space factories to reduce the cost of drug development
Hadrian builds efficient factories to accelerate defense manufacturing
Anduril builds hardware-enabled software to deter war
SpaceX builds re-usable rockets to reduce the cost-to-launch
Flexport builds centralized supply chain tech to simplify global trade
That said, the revised mission of Earthlings will be the following:
We’re following in the footsteps of Andreessen Horowitz’s thesis of “American Dynamism" that aims to invest in founders and companies that support the national interest. It’s hard to develop new things to solve societal problems, and it’s even harder to do it when navigating bureaucratic hierarchies that move slowly, shy away from risk, and have entrenched interests. But that doesn’t mean those problems can’t be solved. The mission of Earthlings moving forward will be to endorse founders and companies taking the bold step to solve real problems in the physical world. We will strive to champion the national interest by promoting, learning from, and reporting on industries that support all North Americans. We will focus on builders that resist the decadence of legacy institutions.
Our goal is inspire others to build and join companies that drive an industrious, resilient, and proactive America to tackle the world’s toughest problems. It’s time to break free from the golden handcuffs of optimizing ads and analyzing conversion funnels. In the words of Marc Andreessen: It’s Time to Build.
Anyways, here’s what Earthlings has to offer today:
🛠️ Stell Engineering is modernizing “unsexy” workflows
🏭️ Aerospace and defense parts sourcing is a mess
Scientists find water stored inside “glass beads” on the Moon
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Founded by Malory McLemore and Anne Wen, Stell Engineering is a startup on a mission to digitize parts ordering and streamline workflows within the aerospace and defense (A&D) industry. The young company recently closed an oversubscribed $3.1 million pre-seed round led by Wischoff Ventures and Third Prime VC. It’s very early days for this new venture, but investors seem confident in the founders to solve a problem no company has tackled yet.
Let’s start by outlining the problem.
In the world of A&D manufacturing, there is almost no room for error. For companies that build products like missiles, jet fighters, and rocket boosters, each part must not deviate more than a hair from its technical specifications - or risk catastrophic failure. You’d think that a precision-driven industry would have an efficient process of ordering parts. Well, you’re wrong. The industry has remained surprisingly outdated.
Despite the precise demands of the industry, parts ordering is generally done using systems that are only slightly better than smoke signal: some combination of Excel spreadsheets and PDFs attached to email. Communication between companies and suppliers about highly technical parts sometimes fail by simply forgetting to copy someone on an email. This disconnect between the intricate nature of A&D manufacturing and the underdeveloped parts ordering systems sometimes compounds into another issue known as “parts obsolescence”.
Let me explain.
As technology cycles accelerate, the aerospace industry grapples with a "two-speed" challenge: the discrepancy between the long lifecycle of their products, often surpassing 30 years, and the short lifecycle of their components, sometimes less than five years. It’s a significant challenge for manufacturers of highly advanced equipment like SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets or Boeing’s B-52, resulting in nonrecurring costs estimated between $50 billion to $70 billion in the US military aircraft sector alone. When components like memory chips are discontinued, manufacturers need to redesign electronic systems around new components, so operations, inventory management, and service aspects of the business fall apart when technical specs are not clearly defined or managed. Parts sourcing really falls part when a specification for a niche part is saved on the 2007 HP Notebook of a retired parts supplier business owner.
Enter: Stell Engineering
📜 Stell Engineering: Redefining Parts Sourcing
Stell is a startup aiming to revolutionize the way A&D parts are sourced and ordered. As reported by TechCrunch, the founders bring a wealth of industry experience to the venture. Malory McLemore worked with aerospace giants like Airbus and Raytheon, as well as with the disruptive machining startup, Hadrian. McLemore was finishing up an MBA at Harvard Business School and happened to meet Anne Wen, a fellow graduate who had experience getting space startups off the ground. They both had unique vantage points on the inefficiencies and errors that riddle the parts-ordering process, so Stell Engineering was born.
Stell seeks to eliminate the common low-tech, human-driven errors often associated with parts ordering. McLemore and Wen plan to introduce a platform that reduces errors with the aim of strengthening America's industrial base. They are betting that their digitized, automation-friendly platform will be an appealing alternative to the status quo.
Stell Engineering's platform aims to account for not just the technical specifications, but also the inspection and testing requirements that accompany parts orders. The results can be seamlessly communicated back to the customer through the software.
While the dominance of legacy primes in the A&D industry has resulted in little incentive for change, Stell is betting on the increased investment in A&D startups and growing US pressure to secure critical supply chains by repatriating manufacturing to American machine shops to tip the balance of power. Legacy primes may also feel the pressure to innovate their processes due to competitive stress from outside the traditional industrial base.
As for now, the Stell team is gearing up for expansion and customers will have their hands on a product by this summer.
When asteroids or meteors crash into the moon, the collisions send fragments of the lunar surface flying into the air, heated to molten temperatures by the impact. Under these extreme conditions, particles from the collision typically come together to form tiny glass beads, according to Live Science’s Ben Turner. Now, scientists say they've found water stored in these glass beads in samples returned from the moon. The vast amounts of glass beads tucked away in lunar soil could hold up to 300 billion tons of water, researchers estimate.
“This work adds to the growing consensus that the moon is more water-rich than previously thought,” Ian Crawford, a planetary scientist and astrobiologist at Birkbeck, University of London.
Mahesh Anand, a co-author of the study and a planetary scientist at the Open University in England, tells Inverse’s Doris Elín Urrutia. “Knowing how water is produced, stored and replenished near the lunar surface would be very useful for future explorers to extract and [utilize] it.”
🐦 Tweet of the Day
Raptor test. Not a chill situation.
33 of these on the bottom of Starship. https://t.co/WxMhCVBPMv
🤖 AI Art of the Day
That’s it for today, Earthlings.
Thanks for reading - we’ll see you next time! 🧑🚀🏭️