Slingshot Aerospace Lands $25 Million Space Force Contract

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Slingshot Aerospace Lands $25 Million Space Force Contract
Image courtesy of Slingshot Aerospace
Fresh off securing a $25 million funding round earlier this month, Slingshot Aerospace has inked a new $25.2 million contract with the U.S. Space Force that will see America’s newest military branch use two of the El Segundo-based startup’s flagship products—a space simulator called Digital Space Twin and a virtual training platform known as Slingshot Laboratory.

The 39-month Space Force contract marks the first time that Slingshot’s Digital Space Twin product will be used by a government customer, according to the company. The technology melds “space weather data” and the live mapping of orbital objects with physics-based simulations to project how missions might play out in space. Slingshot is pitching it as a safer, cost-saving way for the government to simulate various missions before going ahead with their launch.

One example of how the Space Force could use the Digital Space Twin is in scenario planning, also known by the more dramatic moniker of “wargaming.” The process entails using simulations to visualize potential security threats and predict enemy behavior that could occur in orbit, as well as the military response to it.

Another Digital Space Twin capability lets the Space Force map out virtual scenarios whereby a satellite is approached by an unknown object and run tests on how it would respond. Slingshot said the product can also be used to model the deployment of new satellite constellations, which would help the government more safely launch satellites that can cost up to $1 billion to build.

Slingshot co-founder and CEO Melanie Stricklan told dot.LA that the Digital Space Twin product can also be used by private companies, albeit a slightly different version than the specialized systems it’s developing for the government.

“Space moves really fast, and there’s a lot going on up there,” she said. “But if you could take a moment in time and do some ‘what if’ analysis, then you could actually get into a predictive state that would inform decisions even before launch—whether that’s for training tactics and procedures, or developing a new capability. And that’s what the Space Force locked onto.”

In addition to the Digital Space Twin, the Space Force will also use the Slingshot Laboratory to develop space simulation training programs for various Space Force education organizations.

The Space Force’s Space Systems Command division contributed funding for the Slingshot contract alongside SPACEWERX, the Los Angeles-based venture investing arm of the Space Force that was created in collaboration with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFWERX).
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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.

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