CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Florida’s Space Coast is known for pioneering moments, projects and people in the space industry with contributions from players both large and small. As the industry continues to race into the era of commercial companies leading the charge, new barriers continue to be broken. 

What You Need To Know

  • Carol Craig, the founder of Sidus Space, made history in 2021 when she became the first female founder of a publicly traded space-based company

  • She says the company hopes to launch its first satellite, LizzieSat, this fall aboard the SpaceX Transporter 9 mission

  • Craig’s first company, Craig Technologies, contributed to several projects, like components for various parts of the Artemis program and the Sierra Space Dream Chaser

Carol Craig, the founder of Sidus Space made history on Dec. 14, 2021, when she became the first female founder of a space-based company that is publicly traded.

During a factory tour with Spectrum News 13 in February, she said with that success must come the responsibility of helping others succeed as well, especially when it comes to bringing more women into the STEM fields.

“Once a woman can see that she shouldn’t be intimidated in a particular environment that maybe is more traditionally male-dominated, I think that that really opens up new doors for those to come behind them,” Craig said.

According to a 2021 United Nations report, only about one in five workers in the international space industry are women. That roughly 20-22% remained largely unchanged between 2021 and 30 years prior.

At the point of publication, the report noted that across all STEM fields, women averaged 28.8% of that population globally, and only 11% of astronauts have been women. 

Craig received numerous awards from the Space Coast community regarding her work in not only bringing in more women to her company, but also working with young people in the community to support their STEM ambitions.

Just last year, she received the WeVenture Women Who Rock Award – Dr. Mary Helen McCay STEM Award; the i4 Business Women’s Inspired Leadership Award – Spirit of Progress; and the Stevie Award for Woman of the Year – Technology. 

Craig said it’s surprising at times to think that given the opportunities available, more women aren’t joining the STEM fields, but said some of the efforts led by Sidus Space have proven successful.

“I see the tide shifting. We have an internship program that we just started at Sidus Space last summer and we had a significant number of women. So, that was exciting,” Craig said. 

“To see that was a big change, it was a shift and I think that space is a part of that reason. The commercial side of space, the excitement around what’s happening when it comes to tourism and the launches, you start to see some of the young ladies start to come out of their shells and say, ‘You know what, I want to be a part of this.’”

Launching a piece of herself

Sidus Space, a 2012 spinoff of Craig’s first company, Craig Technologies, describes itself as a “Space-as-a-Service company,” which offers customers assistance with manufacturing, satellite design, launch and data.

They’ve had success with their proving ground service, the External Flight Test Platform (EFTP), which was sent to the International Space Station and survived outside the orbiting outpost for a year. It’s designed bring up and house experiments on the ISS and then bring them back to Earth on return cargo missions with SpaceX.

The next big leap for Sidus Space will be the first launch of it’s satellite bus dubbed “LizzieSat.” It’s a hybrid 3D-printed satellite, which allows it to use lighter-weight components. Craig said will be able to house the payloads of multiple customers on each satellite.

“It isn’t just a focus on just one industry or one type of customer, but allows for multiple industries to actually benefit from a cost-effective satellite,” Craig said. “

The satellite was built with a number of redundancies, like having four so-called “reaction wheels,” which Craig said helps to extend the lifetime of the LizzieSat. They’re a device used on satellites to help control the attitude, or orientation, without using thrusters.

“We really wanted this to be a satellite that had the rigorous reliability of traditional programs, but also then moved into the commercial side, the flexibility of a commercial model,” Craig said. “So, it’s important to have that redundancy because this is a revenue generator once it’s on orbit. And it’s going to continue to generate revenue, all that data while it’s on orbit. So, you want it to be on orbit for more than a few months.”

It’s first launch is set to be onboard SpaceX’s Transporter-9 mission, no earlier than October 2023. Craig said it was about a three-year journey to go from the concept of LizzieSat to being close to launching the first one this year. She said it’s also a fairly personal satellite for her.

“I’m actually of Cuban heritage I’m adopted and my biological name is ‘Elizabeth Sanchez.’ And so, I wanted something named after me,” Craig said. “People are like, ‘Wait a minute, Craig Technologies is named after you.’ I’m like, ‘No, that’s named after my husband.’ His last name is Craig, my last name is Craig. I just thought, LizzieSat sounds kind of cool, so that’s how we named her.”

Among the payloads for Sidus Space’s first LizzzieSat mission (LS-1) are NASA’s Autonomous Satellite Technology for Resilient Applications (ASTRA) project, which was announced as part of the deep space human exploration program, Project Polaris; as well as an artificial intelligence image processing machine called FeatherEdge from Exo-Space, Inc.

Following the first planned launch in 2023, last month, Sidus Space announced it secured two flights aboard future Transporter missions in both 2024 and 2025 in order to establish a regular cadence for its customers. They will be deployed using Exolaunch’s CarboNIX separation system.

“With an expected nine LizzieSats in orbit via SpaceX launches through early 2025, we can accommodate multiple missions, offering a variety of flight opportunities to customers,” Craig said in a statement announcing the contract. “This provides our customers multiple manifest options to meet their mission objectives while expanding our space data and imagery platform as part our mission of “Bringing Space Down to EarthTM.”