In today’s interview we will talk again about Russian private astronautics and in this material we have two companies — Azmerit and Gaskol. As part of this series we have earlier written about two companies: CosmoCourse and Lin Industrial and also about the Mayak and Quazar Space projects. Marat Abubekerov has answered our questions, CEO of Azmerit and Deputy CEO of Gaskol.
— Please tell us about yourself and about Azmerit and Gaskol.
— Companies are spin-offs of the Sternberg Astronomical Institute (division of Moscow State University) space projects laboratory. Moscow University is aimed at fundamental researches and therefore the university does not support promising applied developments. This is why we had to create companies, so that found interesting technical solutions in the space instrumentation would not sink into oblivion.
— When and who had the idea of creating the Azmerit and Gaskol companies? How many people do you have in your team?
— The idea of creating Azmerit and Gaskol came to me and the laboratory staff supported this initiative. The trigger of the idea was the search for the funding for the research and development. It turned out that our developments fit perfectly in the Skolkovo Foundation concept. The foundation awards grants only to legal entities. This is why Azmerit and Gaskol were founded.
— Were there any difficulties during the registration of the organizations? If not a secret, why two companies were created? What is the relationship with the state? Do you have any support? If yes, what kind of?
— When registering Azmerit Ltd. and Gaskol Ltd. we used the services of a company that is not the first year engaged in the registration of legal entities, so no difficulties did arise. The two companies were set up due to the Skolkovo process of registering companies. A company is registered for a project. We had two projects — a compact star tracker and a high accuracy start tracker. Therefore, the two companies appeared. Both projects are interesting to the Roscosmos companies. Currently there are negotiations on the financing of the projects by the JSC “Russian Space Systems” and RSC Energia.
— How one can get a job at your company? What education is required?
— One must love space and be a highly qualified specialist. We are currently in need of programmers of “iron”.
— Who are your potential customers? Perhaps, there may already been orders? Orders are from Russia or do you also have foreign?
— Potential buyers of compact star trackers are Russian and foreign companies involved in the creation of small spacecraft. We are currently negotiating with several companies. A compact star tracker proved to be interesting not only to private companies but also to the state-owned. For example, negotiations are currently underway with the JSC “Russian Space Systems” about their involvement in the project. The high accuracy star tracker became the basis of the space experiment “Kachka” on the ISS. This experiment is included in the program of space experiments on the ISS. The purpose of the “Kachka” space experiment is the study of flexural and torsional oscillation angular modules of the International Space Station (ISS) at frequencies from 5 Hz to 10 Hz using high-precision star trackers, as well as to study the characteristics of high-precision star trackers in orbital flight.
— What projects are you working on right now?
— The main project of the Azmerit company is the compact star tracker. The goal is to make an extremely cheap star tracker for nano and microsatellites with the accuracy of about ten seconds of arc. The main project of Gaskol is a high accuracy star tracker. Star tracker with a working accuracy of 0,1 arcsec.
— Please tell us about your star trackers. What is their difference from existing trackers? Have they been installed on satellites before?
— Star trackers are experimental models but they will be implemented in a year or two.
— What difficulties did you have in your work?
— First of all, it is finances. Both projects are run almost only on enthusiasm. The allocated funds are not sufficient to perform the full list of works and the necessary tests. Our average salary is remarkably lower than the average salary in Moscow. Therefore, a precondition of our team — is the love for space and work.
— Do you have any investors? How did you promote (advertise) yourself?
— There are investors; we are negotiating with them at the moment. Both devices are promising. In both projects we expect the funding from the Roscosmos companies. We regularly participate in the exhibitions and conferences. Since the layer of professionals involved in star trackers is “thin”, word of mouth also does its job. We do not advertise ourselves specifically, since we are not chocolate.
— Do you cooperate with institutions and universities? Do you maybe give lectures or take interns?
— We are actively working with students and graduate students of our alma mater — Sternberg Astronomical Institute, a division of Moscow State University. And we give lectures and conduct courses. Students can write term papers and dissertations.
— What are your plants for the future? Do you plan to change or enlarge your field of activity?
— We have grand plans. We will see. Star trackers and star catalogues are our strong point. I guess we will stick to this line in the future.
— Maybe you would like to add something: life principles, ideas about the industry, work or something else?
— We work honestly, we love our country. And we would like to give our country a compact and a high accuracy star tracker — to make a contribution to a brighter future :).