Bradley Cheetham with the CAPSTONE satellite.
Bradley Cheetham with a model of the successful CAPSTONE satellite.

Bradley Cheetham (MAeroEngr’11) and Dr. Jeff Parker (MAeroEngr’03, PhD’07) saw potential for sustainable exploration of space that they've turned into a booming startup company. From humble beginnings in Cheetham's loft, Advanced Space today has NASA contracts and a workforce of 56 people.

In your own words, what does your company do?

Brad: We call Advanced Space a high-tech space solutions company because we are developing critical technology to enable the sustainable exploration, development and settlement of space. In all of our work we are focused on delivering solutions to support this purpose.

We primarily focus on flight dynamics which enable spacecraft operations from low Earth orbit and geosynchronous orbit to cislunar space and beyond. We are also developing innovative solutions using artificial intelligence-driven algorithms to help automate spacecraft guidance functions. Lastly, we offer customers rapid, turn-key mission designs, helping customers identify the hardware, mission operations, and technologies necessary to achieve their objectives.

Jeff: Brad’s response is amazing. I’d also add that we are an innovative company, seeking to challenge aging approaches and to find new, robust solutions to difficult problems in spaceflight.

We see the needs for future space infrastructure and are working to develop that one step at a time. Our company is also here to inspire the next generation, working on numerous exciting projects and giving people opportunities to contribute to many exciting aspects of spaceflight.

Why did you decide to take the plunge and start a business?

Brad: For as long as I can remember, my interest in entrepreneurship was a close second to my interest in space. As an undergraduate at the University of Buffalo, I was actively involved with Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) and met one of the Advanced Space co-founders, Darrell Cain, through the organization.

Darrell and I talked a lot about what kind of organization  we wanted to work for and at the time, we could not find an organization that aligned with the purpose to enable the sustainable exploration, development, and settlement of space. Since we couldn’t find anything that aligned with what we wanted, we decided to start a company.

Starting a business sounds exciting, almost sexy, but the reality is that it takes so much mental fortitude. If you can lean into the hard times and allow yourself to grow with the company, it becomes enjoyable. Being challenged in different ways can be exciting if you are open to the diversity of challenges that arise daily.

Jeff: I saw this as an opportunity to grow and experience spaceflight far more directly than I could have otherwise. We at Advanced Space directly contribute to solving problems and innovating on the technological frontier.

How often do you get the opportunity to help define interplanetary missions, test out new navigation technologies, and inspire engineers all at the same time? We love what we do and Advanced Space lets us do it.

Jeff Parker
We have fully intended this company to be built to be a multi-generational company." - Dr. Jeff Parker

How did your education at CU Boulder prepare you for the challenge?

Brad: After completing my undergrad at UB, I knew I wanted to pursue a graduate level degree. I was accepted to a handful of programs, but CU Boulder stood out for a few reasons.

Back in 2009, CU Boulder was part of a unique partnership with a local space company that created a non-profit called eSpace: The Center for Space Entrepreneurship. The organization was the epicenter for collaboration between industry, government, and academia to accelerate the creation and development of entrepreneurial space companies. This was not something that I found at any of the other universities where I was accepted.

The late Dr. Geoge Born, founder of the Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research (CCAR) also played a critical role in my decision. At CU I was able to benefit from the outstanding technical reputation and to pursue leadership positions which was foundational to building the skills I need today as a CEO. 

Jeff: CU Boulder uniquely prepared me for Advanced Space. CU Boulder’s Aerospace Engineering Sciences curriculum offers an amazing combination of courses that include traditional academic courses, applied engineering courses, and very rare courses that push the boundaries of what is taught anywhere in the world.

One of those courses was developed by my business partner, Brad, and focused on entrepreneurship within the aerospace industry.

The University includes a variety of academic centers, consortiums, and laboratories that each provide opportunities to students. I was personally involved heavily within the Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research (CCAR), founded by my Ph.D. advisor Dr. George Born, yet I also found enriching activities within the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) and the Colorado Space Grant Consortium. These all shaped my path that led to Advanced Space.

What do you like the most about your work at Advanced Space?

Brad: My family and my purpose are what drive me. When I head out the door in the mornings my kids ask, “Why do you have to leave and why can’t you stay and play all day?” I tell them that “I have to help people go to the Moon!” It’s become a mantra in our family, “the toddler test” and a good reminder of the future we are working to build for them and everyone in future generations.

Another thing that I like the most about my work are the people on this team. I’m constantly amazed at the work they do from the technical to the business management side, they are what keep me going.

Jeff: I love contributing to the exploration, development, and settlement of space. It is simply amazing to design and fly current space missions and to develop the technologies that will enable future space missions.

How has your company grown since being founded?

Brad: We have added people as our customer needs have grown. We started as a group of three working in a loft in my condo in Boulder 12 years ago, got the first contract, got contracts after that, and were able to hire people as we did more work.

As of today (September 6), we have 56 employees, and each one has been added because we identified a specific need within the company, to support a customer, or both. Many matured from our internship program and several team members are CU Boulder grads. Because of our team, our technical capabilities have also grown. We have been awarded 1 patent and in the evaluation process for 3 more.

Jeff: Very carefully. That’s how we’ve grown. We have fully intended this company to be built to be a multi-generational company: something that will outlast anyone here. We are therefore constantly evaluating where we are and where we need to go as we grow the company so that we can grow sustainably and provide assurance that anyone on our team will be here for as long as we hold their imagination.

Find out more about Advanced Space at their website