Twenty-three year old Davide Nejoumi of Rome is building satellites for Space X through his startup Delta Space Leonis, an innovative aerospace company based in Rome’s Tecnopolo technological hub. Built on a deep interest in space that started at a young age and plenty of determination, in 2021 after an incredible succession of regional tenders Nejoumi brought his dream to life of aiming to make space increasingly accessible, affordable and bringing it closer to people.
“When I was 12 I asked to have a telescope as a gift and, like Galileo, a world opened up to me,” says Nejoumi. An Aerospace Engineering student at Rome’s La Sapienza University and a rescue service volunteer as well as a space enthusiast, Nejoumi’s story is similar to that many young engineers. “In 2019 I won a ‘Torno subito’ scholarship to go to Shanghai. I then won a tender issued by Lazio’s regional authority. I submitted my idea for a startup, which I launched in 2021. We set up the team on the 25th of October that same year and barely a month later we took part in the Espace Meeting in Turin. Here we were contacted by an Indian company that had to prepare for a launch into space with Elon Musk’s company SpaceX: they needed a satellite and they asked us to build it. In 2023 we will be in orbit aboard SpaceX with a satellite made here in Rome.“
The firm is made up of three other people – students and ‘geeks’ who for years have been busy building robots and the machinery of the future. “We are four guys – says Nejoumi – and three of us are called Davide. We specialize in building PocketQube and Cubesat satellites as small as the palm of your hand, for which we develop and design all the subsystems. Moreover, for the PocketQube format we also offer the launch service through a Deployer we created.“
From Maker Faire Rome 2021…to the conquest of space with Elon Musk’s SpaceX: the first tests will be held in Piedmont at the end of July!
That’s right: it all happened at last year’s edition of Rome’s Maker Faire, during which Davide met the man with whom he would go on to conquer space in a few months: Davide Petenzi, a maker from Pinerolo who in 2021, thanks to the Call for Makers, displayed the first homemade satellite, Sally PQ-1, at the Gazometro Ostiense.
What happened after this meeting at the 2021 Rome Maker Faire? Well, we could say that “the rest is history”: The Delta Space Leonis team was soon noticed. During a trade fair in Turin, just one month after the startup was launched, Davide closed the first contract: “We were hired by an Indian company, To Space, which had a launch with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, but it didn’t have the experience to make the satellite. Hence the collaboration. It is our first international mission. The satellite will be positioned 500 kilometres away from Earth in low orbit, where the atmosphere is still present, even if there is very little of it. The position is strategic to keep it in orbit and go around the Earth several times at 28,000 kilometres per hour. If all goes well, we will create what in jargon is called a constellation”.
What will this satellite in orbit do?
“The goal – says Davide – is to test a radio module for telecommunications by collecting data. The satellite will send a pulse to the ground and we will need to be able to receive the decrypted code, which will be converted into images and graphics. But even we don’t know the ultimate purpose at the moment.”
The launch of the satellite will take place in Florida and Davide and the other members of Delta Space Leonis will obviously go to see the launch. “The rocket should be a Falcon 9, which will come back after the launch,” says Davide. Meanwhile, however, the next step is the test campaign: “We will start in Piedmont at the end of July with a stratospheric launch that will enable us to go up with a balloon at 20/30 km of altitude: we will see if the satellite holds up, if it transmits data, since its purpose is to communicate. We are waiting for the flight authorizations.“
There is plenty of enthusiasm and the whole team hopes that this will be the first of many achievements. Indeed, even when it comes to the future Davide has very clear ideas: “We want to grow on our own two feet and be independent”
What does David has to say to other young makers and inventors?
“Don’t follow your friends, everyone must follow their own path. The important thing is to have a goal. There are many young people who have no purpose and this is a social issue. Maybe out of fear, but my peers imagine the future in their own backyard. You don’t have to be afraid to fail even if you feel pressure from society. Follow your dreams even if they are crazy.“
In the meantime, Davide and the entire Delta Space Leonis team will keep up the good work and enthusiasm that in less than two years will literally take them into orbit!
Cover image and source: Corriere della Sera; Final image: NASA /JWST
Maker Faire Rome returns with more innovation, more art, and more making October 7-9th at Rome’s Gazometro. Want to have your ingenuity on display – the Call for Makers is still reviewing applications!