During the NCEs we met Laurent Marfisi, CEO of Unistellar who intends to democratize space for the greatest number of people.
When it comes to the space world, and in particular the private players who are in the process of redrawing its features, the same names keep coming up. SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Rocket Lab, as well as Anglo-Saxon companies, not to say American. Yet France, a space country in Europe with the Ariane rocket launch base in Kourou, or the Airbus and Arianespace work center in Toulouse, is well placed to have its role to play in this renaissance. space.
And our territory is full of companies, more or less large, which evolve at the same time as the passion for space is gaining the Hexagon. So in order to satisfy all these new astronomy lovers, we must be able to offer them a telescope: that’s exactly what Unistellar does.
The company created in 2016 by Laurent Marfisi in Marseille is today one of the main companies which produces and supplies intelligent telescopes for the general public. For the record, the only other company that offers such services all over the world is Vaonis, a start-up also French, based in Montpellier.
The magic happens in seconds
In order to understand how Unistellar has been able to grow over the past five years, we took advantage of the sky and space meetings organized at the end of last year in Paris to discuss with Laurent Marfisi, CEO and founder of the brand. According to him, the project was born from a simple observation “To create a telescope in which everyone can see what is in the sky”. The idea was therefore to make the product as accessible as possible. “Especially for use in town, where people are”.
The idea was therefore launched. But the big change between this telescope and the rest of the market is its ability to locate itself in the sky. “He finds one or two key stars and then it’s good” Laurent Marfisi explains simply. Indeed, the operating mode of the eVescope is not much more complicated.
Just take out the scope, place it on its tripod, point the sky 45 degrees and wait for the magic to happen. Usually it only takes a few seconds, a minute at most. The telescope then recognizes where it is, and will then be able to offer a whole list of elements present in the sky and which are interesting to observe (nebulae, galaxies, star clusters, etc.). “
A participatory ascent
Renowned around the world, the Unistellar project was not born out of big fundraising with investors, but of crowdfunding. “We knew that it was a good channel to raise funds, we hoped to reach 600 k €, we dreamed of a million, but no more”. Finally, when the campaign ends at the end of 2017, the French project recovered more than $ 2.2 million. A sum that allows him to ensure the first 1,600 sales of the company.
Thanks to the success of its first product, Unistellar was able at the start of 2021 to launch a second telescope, simply called the eVescope 2. The latter is the result of collaboration with one of the biggest brands. optics that are: Nikon. A real chance for the young company from Marseille, which can thus offer sensors with better resolution and a wider field of view than on the first version of the eVescope.
“The idea with this new model, as with the first, is to simplify the use of a telescope, to make it easier to access to make people want to observe the stars in their turn”.
An impact on the scientific world
Thanks to these chain observations, the eVescope makes it possible, thanks to its many users all over the world, to engage in citizen science. Laurent Marfisi explains that NASA and other space agencies regularly call on amateur astronomers, in particular for the search for an asteroid or exoplanet. Indeed, in this kind of situation “It is better to have plenty of telescopes all over the place, rather than one or two overpowered observatories that point to a very precise place”.
Today Unistellar is proud to announce that the company has worked on several scientific publications. For the launch of the Lucy mission by NASA in particular, the American agency needed a lot of data on Trojan asteroids, a very little known part of our solar system ”NASA therefore appealed to the general public, and therefore to our users ”.
The eVescope 2 test can be found on Presse-citron.net
A perfect product for astronomy enthusiasts as well as neophytes
If the price range of Unistellar products could suggest that it is intended only for professionals or at least for lovers of the stars, already connoisseurs of the sky, it is in reality quite the opposite. According to Laurent Marfisi “Only a third of customers are amateur astronomers, who already have products costing several thousand euros and who come to seek the comfort of the eVescope”.
For him, a second third of Unistellar’s clientele would be made up of “Enlightened neophytes”, who are starting to take an interest in astronomy, but who do not feel the shoulders to have a device as complex as a classic telescope, the calibration of which requires increased knowledge of the sky. And finally, the last third of Unistellar customers “Are people who love the stars without knowing much about them and who want a simple product, but of quality to discover the sky and be amazed”.
The ease of use, but also all the technological part, with the search for a star, the use of a real on-board computer, these are all things that attract enthusiasts and neophytes alike and that create an additional interest in the object.
“Our tool is infinitely easier to use than a traditional telescope, and that’s exactly what people are looking for”.
An award-winning project
Unistellar is therefore this French-style success, which has surpassed the 5,000 customer mark for a few months, a key milestone for the company, which saw its efforts rewarded at the last CES Awards. The Marseille company having received the “Innovation awards” in the category “Digital Image” during this 2022 edition of the show.
The idea now for Unistellar is to continue its partnership with Nikon in order to make its products as “mainstream” as possible. The young company hopes to be able to industrialize further in the coming months and use its technology on other supports, such as the project. “Nocturne” lets think so.