Future 50
A New Generation of Leaders Has Arrived

For offering easier access to space with small-but-mighty satellites

Low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites may not get much glory in the space sector, but they have myriad applications. Governments use them for national security. Scientists use them to learn about space. Telecoms use them to broaden internet access. That range means the small-sat market is booming—and the world’s biggest tech titans are vying for control. To date, Elon Musk's Starlink has sent more than 2,000 LEOs into orbit, and Jeff Bezos' Kuiper Systems has promised to add 7,000 more.

In February, the European Union announced it would deploy its own network of small satellites. And Daniel Metzler is taking steps to ensure his Munich startup, Isar Aerospace, gets a piece of the pie. In January, Isar was awarded the European Innovation Council’s Horizon Prize for its work on Spectrum, a small launch rocket slated to go to space later this year. 

It was Isar's latest accolade—the culmination of years of hard work that began when Metzler and co-founders Markus Brandl and Josef Fleischmann were studying aerospace engineering at the Technical University of Munich. They’d learned how to build rocket engines that could propel small satellites into space—and knew the engines were key. While swapping post-grad plans with other students, there was a lightbulb moment: They had the sought-after skills. Why not build their own small satellite launch company?

They turned their entrepreneurial vision into reality, founding Isar in 2018. Four years later, the company has snagged some serious attention. Isar's latest funding round topped US$165 million, and by the end of 2022 the company aims to debut the Spectrum rocket. In an interview with venture capital firm Lakestar, Metzler made it clear he’s thinking big. His ultimate dream? "To build the next big space powerhouse out of Europe."