Interview with Pavel Tanasyuk, the founder of Spacebit

Pavel Tanasyuk is the founder & CEO of spacecraft manufacturer Spacebit and the founder of the BlockVerify platform for tracking counterfeit products using blockchain technology. In September 2019, Spacebit signed a contract with Astrobotic Technology Inc. to send the exploration rover Asagumo to the Moon in July 2021, using the launch vehicle Vulcan Centaur from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Asagumo will make Full HD videos and scan the surface of the Moon with 3D LIDAR.

Pavel, you told in February 2020 that the costs of the Asagumo project were 3.5 million dollars. You also mentioned that you had no intentions to raise funds until the company’s value reached a sufficient level. How did you manage to bring the project to life?

First of all, it is an investment of my personal funds. I was a shareholder and CEO of MoneXy payment system operating in Ukraine. The project’s profit became an additional investment in spacecraft development. There are also a number of private investors from Europe who dreamed about space travel and exploration.

Of course, it’s not easy when you try to attract investment at the start of the project. It depends on what you do in the space industry. Your company can develop rockets, satellites or robots. Or you can just research the data obtained from space.

The question about the quarantine and suspension of production all over the world: what is the current status of the Asagumo project?

There are two versions of Asagumo – a robot that will launch into space and a robot that walks the Earth. These “spiders” are completely different – the Moon’s gravity is six times weaker. We have the Asagumo, that walks the Earth, already assembled and tested; we display it at trade shows. The version for the Moon is currently in testing phase. To be precise, Spacebit has several models to be tested in different locations. If an access to one of the laboratories is limited by quarantine, then we conduct testing in another laboratory. Therefore we have to order more components and build logistics under lockdown conditions to ensure the on-going testing process. Pandemic also had a certain impact on production in terms of the supply of spare parts that we buy in different countries.

What are the countries that you have supply problems with?

Currently, we have no problems with China, and production is in operation. In the U.S., less people are engaged in production during the quarantine, but the orders are still carried out, just with a delay. Backorder took 1-2 months to deliver before the quarantine, now it takes 3-4 months.

You wrote about potential cooperation with Yuzhnoye Design Office on your Facebook. Are you going to use their landing module Lunar Lander-Hopper for Asagumo landing?

No, we are not. Asagumo will be delivered by Astrobotic module. Yuzhnoye Design Office has a design concept. We don’t mind implementing that project, though it is possible not earlier than 2024. I come from Ukraine, so I would like Ukraine to prove itself in space industry. They (Yuzhnoye Design Office) have a number of interesting developments – primarily, propulsion systems used in landing modules.

Does Spacebit have any partnerships with any other companies from Ukraine? SpaceNews mentioned that Ukrainian engineer from Spacebit tested parts in vacuum chamber.

Not exactly. Spacebit in cooperation with Lunar Research Service invested in development of vacuum chamber, which will be available for space industry startups to carry out tests on the territory of Ukraine.  

Half a year ago, you made a working visit to Japan. What are the best things about doing business in Japan?

Japanese people are very responsible, they have something to teach us. There is a garden in Kyoto with 15 stones. From any angle, you will be able to see only 14 of them. This composition suggests that it is impossible to get a full picture, while evaluating your work from one perspective. Japanese try to look at the project from different perspectives, and they can carry out the tasks without additional supervision. That’s why we cooperate with Japan, Spacebit has two engineers working in this country. We have also signed a contract with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), but this hasn’t gone public yet. Expect our announcements in the news media. 

Pavel, you have special view on the philosophy of the composition of stones in the Ryōan-ji garden. 

The last question will be about vehicles. Many entrepreneurs prefer Tesla, but you are a famous fan of Jaguar.

I live in the UK, and these cars are affordable here. My favorite model is from previous generation – it’s Jaguar X308. I also rented Tesla. I like the concept of electric cars, but rather as a vision of the future. For instance, the situation with charging stations is difficult in Ukraine: they are out of operation or charge your car very slowly. In the UK the situation is a little bit better, but still, as there is a lack of charging stations and service centers, it’s too early to speak about electric cars. In general, I like the ecological aspect of electric cars, acceleration and ease of maintenance, which does not imply frequent replacements of consumables. Of course, the feelings when driving 8 cylinder Jaguar and Tesla are absolutely different. I like to hear the noise of an engine, it gives me the feeling of being in control of something powerful. But probably, when we get to the next level of cars, only memories will remain. So, we will search for new sensations – hearing the roar of the rocket engine, for instance.

Pavel, thank you for the interview! It was a pleasure speaking with you.

Thank you for the interview! Before launching Asagumo, Spacebit is going to build Mission Control Center in Ukraine. We invite your editorial team to watch the launch and landing on the Moon.

Pavel, thank you for the invitation! Let’s keep in touch!

by Serg Kenzorov