Petr Kapoun

Disrupting the traditional space industry

Petr Kapoun, CEO at TRL Space

Text: Martina Hošková and M.Zisso; Photo: Archive

“Would you like to work on a mission to the Moon? Or on an Earth observation satellite? Or maybe dozens of other projects around the world? If you are nodding your head yes, chances are you have already heard about TRL Space, a company which its CEO, Petr Kapoun, founded in Brno, with the goal of disrupting the traditional space industry and delivering complete space missions made in the Czech Republic. And because we also control space (on the pages of our magazine), we are glad to introduce a short interview with Petr here.”

You present yourself as an “Ambassador for Women in Space”. How do you become one of those?

I believe that we need more women in space, and gender equality in the tech industries is a topic close to my heart in general. It is very sad to see how every technological conference, exhibition, common event, or even business meeting is still a man’s game. That is why I have decided to accept the role of Ambassador for Women in Space, and I try to promote this topic as much as I can. The best way, for sure, is to lead by example, and I am happy that, since 2018, I have been able to be the host of an event called Space for Women, which is a part of the yearly Czech Space Week. This is an event where we gather successful women who made it through the “man’s world” and are open to sharing their stories, inspiring young girls.

What do you do in TRL Space?

TRL Space is a premier mission integration company, adept at serving a wide array of clients from both space and non-space sectors. Our approach is centred around providing customised satellite-based solutions tailored to the unique challenges and objectives of our customers. Whether it’s for Earth Observation, Telecommunication, or deep space exploration missions, our mission is to deliver unparalleled, bespoke solutions that align with our customers’ strategic goals.

We built upon expertise gained during the years since the Czech Republic joined the European Space Agency (ESA), back in 2008. Our team has deep experience in working on many large space projects and missions in the space industry (VEGA and PLATO structures, Sentinel, Galileo, Bepi-Colombo, Juice and Solar Orbiter, and ISS experiments). Since 2022, we have been building customised satellites for hyperspectral or high-resolution Earth observation for agriculture, disaster management, climate change, and security.

At the moment, we are working on two Moon orbiters and several small Earth observation satellites for commercial customers. We are launching our own nanosatellite to demonstrate several payloads and subsystems. Our missions are based on a deep understanding of our customers’ problems and identifying the right solutions, including the right hardware and software tools. In parallel, we are developing unique products such as a Microgravity Lab or LiDARs for Space Traffic Management and proximity operations.

“By 2030, we will have our products and services on every continent”, says your company’s vision statement, among other things. Is that why you are active in Rwanda?

In TRL Space Rwanda we invest in strengthening local capabilities for the development of satellite technology. We are committed to bringing expertise, development, and production capabilities to Rwanda in cooperation with its government, the Rwanda Space Agency, as well as universities and research organisations. We plan to invest over 2 million USD in this innovative collaboration and dedication to fostering a sustainable space ecosystem in Africa.

The first phase of the satellite mission, which will be exclusively dedicated to supporting Rwandan agriculture, has already begun. This pioneering endeavour is just the beginning, as our goal is to create a complete constellation of satellites that will ensure regular and sufficient imaging of the entire African continent. While the first satellite will be built by engineers from Europe and Africa working together, future satellites will primarily be developed by TRL Space engineers based in Rwanda.

My intention is not just to deliver these technologies to Rwanda. I want to bring added value to the region. Our goal is to introduce new space technologies that increase the economic and living standards of the entire region.

I want to make Rwanda a small satellite and constellation centre for Africa.

From left: Petr Kočnar from Talking Through Art NGO, President Petr Pavel, Petr Kapoun, and Petr Boháček from TRL Space during the President ́s visit to Rwanda

Is achieving the proper education important in your field?

The education and attraction of talents is everything. It is worth the time and investment. If we want the industry to grow, and if we want to make companies sustainable, we need to nurture amazing young brains, and make sure that there are plenty of enthusiastic engineers looking for a job in the near future. And that is why, without any hesitation, I dedicate a big portion of my time, energy, and effort to this purpose.

Besides leading your company, you hold several more positions in different organisations. Do you have any free time left?

Space is hard. Especially when you are trying to introduce new technologies in Europe, prove that countries like the Czech Republic can lead a mission to the Moon, and are attempting to disrupt the traditional space industry, all while you are also introducing new technologies in Africa. It would be silly to say that my family, friends, and free time do not suffer from what I do. They do. But I believe in what we do, in our vision, in our purpose, and I do care about the environment around us, and about our region, where I live and work. I hope it is a sacrifice worth making.

Petr Kapoun has been working in the space sector since 2014, managing over 12 space missions. He is the CEO at TRL Space, a Czech private company founded with the sole purpose of bringing together the best experts, engineers, and scientists in the Czech Republic in order to be able to deliver complete space missions and provide products and services worldwide. He is the Chairman of the Brno Space Cluster and Deputy Chairman at the Brno Regional Chamber of Commerce. Petr believes in the power of education and is involved in supporting educational activities for elementary and high schools, while having also participated in creating the first space master program at Brno University of Technology – Space Applications.