The Business of Space Interview Series

Space Operations Director Blue Abyss

What Is the Background of Blue Abyss's Top Management?

The management team are well-versed in establishing and running multi-faceted ventures. With broad commercial and operational management experience of diving, education, leisure facilities with pools, multinational space life science research and operations, blue-chip sales organisations, project management, quality initiative programmes, accounting and other key finance functions, all of the requisite skills are represented within the core team.

Former British Army diver instructor, John Vickers, quit his career in 2014 as a City-based technology consultant working for some of the world's Fortune 100 companies, to follow his dream. He set about to create the world’s first commercial centre dedicated to deep sea and space innovation and exploration, a field that had fascinated him since early childhood.

John was soon joined by Professor Simon Evetts. Simon, who has been instrumental in developing the field of space biomedicine in the UK over the last 20 years, was responsible for astronaut fitness and the support of in-mission astronaut health at the European Astronaut Centre.

Together they head the Blue Abyss’ Management Team with its broad commercial and operational management experience of diving, education, space life science research and operations, blue-chip sales organisations, project management, quality initiative programmes, accounting and other key commercial functions. The team also work with industry experts who provide technical support and guidance, including:

Professor Walter Kuehnegger (former NASA Apollo Programme Principle Investigator)

Dr. Scott Parazynski (veteran NASA five-time shuttle Astronaut)

Dumitru-Dorin Prunariu (veteran Romanian Cosmonaut and retired President of the Romanian Space Agency)

In addition, a number of leading marine scientists, explorers and STEM academics are either involved or are advising the Management Team.

What Is Blue Abyss’s Core Product or Service and Its Unique Proposition to Their Market Sector?

Blue Abyss will provide state-of-the-art facilities designed to be provide the world’s most comprehensive deep-sea and space training, research and test centre. Supporting the commercial diving, submersibles, human spaceflight and human life science sectors, Blue Abyss aims to help to reduce risk, improve performance and aid exploration in extreme environments.

The complex will house the world's largest and deepest indoor pool at 50 metres deep and approximately 42,000m³ volume. But Blue Abyss is far more than just a super-sized pool. It’s a commercial astronaut training centre, the first of its kind in the world, and a human performance centre helping people reach the peak of their physical capabilities. Blue Abyss is an R&D hub bringing industry, academia and government together across sectors to spawn new technologies, and a test-bed to help mitigate risk in the extreme environments found in our deep seas and outer space. It’s an education centre supporting the country’s national curriculum and inspiring a hands-on approach to learning and engaging in science, technology, engineering and maths.

How Did You Find out About the 2017 Startup Challenge and What Lessons Has Your Team Learned, and Are Learning, While Preparing for Your Presentation?

We heard through an email passed on from a colleague. We are aware of the ins and outs of pitching and preparation for such events, but are gaining a degree of understanding of the UK space sector, which is something that is proving beneficial to us.

What Are Blue Abyss's Growth Objectives over the next 5 Years?

We intend to be operational in 2019, profitable by 2021 and hope to be looking at international expansion by 2022

The team is in the final stages of securing funding and master planning, before seeking full planning consent. Blue Abyss hopes to be integral to an emerging vision to create a science and technology park to regenerate the site of RAF Henlow, bringing new employment and world-leading research.

How Will Winning LSW 2017 Startup Challenge Support These Growth Objectives?

Blue Abyss as a venture is somewhat unique in that it spans multiple sectors but is not 'owned' by any individual sector or market. As such attracting traditional market focused investors is not easy, which is why winning the Startup challenge will be extremely useful to provide us with a degree of space sector credibility and of course investment to support development.

What Competitive Changes Does Blue Abyss’s Envisage Within Key Markets over the next 5 Years?

Human spaceflight is an exciting market that is set to take off when commercial transport of humans into space begins in 2019. Blue Abyss will be ideally positioned to capitalise on this opportunity and welcome a new era of space exploration.

It’s also an opportunity to introduce new robotic technologies that deliver the strong industrial growth the UK seeks. It’s an opportunity to give children the skills and training they need to access the science and technology internships and jobs of the future. It’s an opportunity to secure a lasting legacy for today’s society and for future generations to come.

We are collectively responsible for taking the right paths today to secure a better future for tomorrow. By inspiring all of us to dream bigger, delve into our curiosity, and not just wonder what might have been, we can be better prepared for the future and open to a whole world of new and exciting opportunities.

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