Scrolling through Hypergiant's homepage you might feel like the future is finally here.
You might also not really know exactly what you’re looking at. There’s talk of a fourth industrial revolution and “solving the world’s biggest problems.” The phrase “Tomorrowing today” fills your screen. And in the background, faded illustrations depict space like we’ve seen it in comic books, with flying saucers and outposts on distant planets.
Then you’ll notice how much of the site is stamped “top secret.” Black lines and red Xs conceal select projects, clients, and faces. Two of the company’s six divisions are redacted entirely. So is one of its three offices.
Of course, no company needs to redact anything on its own website; you could easily just leave it off. And while a lot of Hypergiant’s work is top secret, the redacted information — like the sci-fi images — is there for the aesthetic.
“What we wanted to create with the brand, and I think we nailed it, is the Venn diagram of secret government, high fashion, and retro-futurism, that whole Tomorrowland vibe of the world we were promised,” Ben Lamm, founder and CEO of Hypergiant, told Supercluster.
Hypergiant, a Texas-based AI and machine learning company, develops critical infrastructure for defence, supply chain logistics, and space, with a special affinity for the latter in its most imaginative and romantic form. Founded in 2018, the company was named after the largest classification of a star in the known universe and proceeded to chase dreams just as big, like UFO research and an “Interplanetary Internet,” drawing inspiration from science fiction lore.
Hypergiant has partnerships with NASA and the U.S. Air Force, also offering end-to-end satellite design, build, deployment, and management services. The company also has an allocation on all ISS visiting vehicles and has already completed four deployments with a one hundred percent success rate.
It’s a lot. And between Hypergiant’s scope and secrets, people in the space industry are starting to notice, but not everyone is quite sure what to make of it. Legacy runs strong in this world, and startups, including newcomers like Relativity Space and Rocket Lab, are entering the commercial space race. This shift in the space landscape is a little jarring, but to achieve our greatest space fantasies, some argue it’s necessary.
“The industry could use a healthy dose of modernization, and Hypergiant brings that," said Jonathan Pettus, former NASA Chief Information Officer and Associate Director of Marshall Space Flight Center. Currently, he’s a Vice President at Dynetics, one of three companies recently selected by NASA to create the human landers for the 2024 Artemis mission to the moon.
Pettus was introduced to Lamm when looking to partner with a small, entrepreneurial upstart making real strides in space. In October 2019, their companies joined forces to leverage the Amazon Web Services cloud for mission and payload on-demand offerings. He says Hypergiant excels in interface design, machine learning, iterative development, and speed to market, even impacting Dynetics’ own mission operations software.
"I know how hard it is to actually fly something in space,” he said. “They've done it multiple times. And for me, once you've done that, you've got some cachet. And I think they've earned some stripes."
In conversations about Hypergiant, all flight paths lead back to Lamm. It’s clear the founder leaves an impression on the people around him, and not just because he hands out Hypergiant-branded Astronaut Ice Cream as a business card.
Clients and other associates use words like “indispensable,” “brilliant,” a “rainmaker,” and “visionary” to describe him online, flooding his LinkedIn with praising testimonials. One press feature declared that his “mind is wired differently than most.”
“He has this uncanny ability to identify when things are going to intersect and to build companies that fit into the intersection,” said Kristina Libby, Chief Science Officer at Hypergiant.
Prior to Hypergiant, Lamm built and sold four successful technology companies: Conversable, Team Chaos, Chaotic Moon, and Simply Interactive, which dealt in emerging technologies like AI, VR, connected cars, and mobile gaming. While he’s been a lifelong space dreamer, this is his first company tackling the stars head-on. It’s also the first company the serial entrepreneur doesn’t intend to sell.
Lamm says he started Hypergiant because he believes we’re an interplanetary species and “there has to be a tech company really focused on delivering the world we were promised, and doing it in an ethical way.”
”I feel like a lot of technology companies were supposed to usher in the golden age of technology and then they just stole other people’s data, right?” Lamm said, frustrated. “All of these great people with great ideas turned to these weird business models and didn’t deliver. They let humanity down. Like, where are flying cars? Where are tractor beams? Where is space colonization?"
"Why are we not taking trips to the moon yet?"
His feeling of urgency for a world many technical breakthroughs away from reality makes sense when you consider his media diet. “I’m like 99% Sci-Fi,” Lamm said.
“Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark” are his favorite movies of all time, and outside of that, he obsesses over “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Star Wars,” “The Matrix,” “Serenity,” “The Fifth Element,” and the like. He devours science fiction movies, books, video games, and tv shows. This is what led him to pursue technology, and now it’s influencing the technology he creates.
But Lamm stresses that science fiction is never a roadmap. They don’t ever set out to build something from a movie. If you’ve come across the company in the news, however, you might think otherwise.
Publications like Inverse, Futurism, and Forbes painted Hypergiant technologies HyperVSR and Project Orion, helmets with situational awareness for space and first responders, respectively, as replicating or being directly inspired by the Iron Man helmet. People thought the company’s bioreactor was similar to Tony Stark's arc reactor — because they’re both clean energy, and both called “reactors.” Not only are these one-to-one comparisons often wrong (Project Orion was actually more inspired by “Predator” and video games “Halo” and “Mass Effect,” for example.) They’re also not representative of how the sci-fi inspiration actually manifests for Lamm and the company.
Sci-fi is just part of the spark.
For example, we can look at HIVE, Hypergiant’s autonomous satellite management technology that allows systems of satellites to be monitored and controlled remotely from a smartphone. Some of the thinking behind it came from old NASA research papers from the 70s about satellite collisions and tracking, and some came from “The Expanse” and the new StarTreks films, which have advanced interfaces and displays for monitoring space assets and ships.
Another area of Hypergiant’s work that feels especially sci-fi is its UFO research. Sitting at the intersection of space, defense, and critical infrastructure, however, it’s actually a natural project for the company. Hypergiant’s software CONTACT, or Contextually Organized Non-Terrestrial Active Capture Tool, categorizes and analyzes unidentified sightings and research captured by satellites, making use of the company’s rich machine learning capabilities.
At this point, the Pentagon has confirmed UAPs (unidentified aerial phenomena) exist in our skies, and Lamm believes that as far as UFOs and aliens go, it’s short-sighted to assume we’re the only intelligent life forms in the universe.
The biggest hurdles to UFO research have been public opinion, political willpower, and money. But just as the latest government confirmations are opening people’s minds, private companies are pouring more funds than ever into studying the unknown.
“If ever there were a time to try to look for life outside this planet, it’s now,” Lamm says.