Chris Thayer
Motiv Space Systems


The type of work that Motiv Space Systems does can be found at the intersection of mechanical, electrical and software engineering.  What started as an idea to create the best motion control and robotics solutions has grown into a bonafide success with technologies that don’t exist elsewhere in the industry.  Chris recently sat down with the Future Yourself Here Team to talk robotic arms, doing business in Pasadena and the next generation of robots here on Earth.

What is Motiv’s story?

Motiv Space Systems was founded in 2014 with the idea that we could serve the space community with motion control solutions better than anyone out there. We initially started in a small “incubator” space in Pasadena that allowed us to gain some footing as the business started.  Our early work supported NASA with some efforts on advanced space based motion control. Our business base quickly evolved into a broad number of space robotics, sensors, electronics and mechanisms projects which necessitated the need to move to a new facility. We were fortunate to find and buy a great building in the city that solidified our roots here in Pasadena. The Motiv team has significant history developing flight hardware and as we continue to grow and explore new opportunities we always want to remember the initial goal of creating a great work environment to design and build fun and exciting things.   I think we’ve accomplished that!

Every company grows over time. How has Motiv evolved?

In a relatively short period of time we’ve gone from an idea for a company to one that is developing robots for Space as well as here on Earth.  From day one, culture has been a guiding principle for us.  Motiv empowers passionate people to do what they love to do and we’ve been fortunate to attract some of the best people in the industry.  As we continue to grow and evolve, we do so around work we find interesting and with people who are having fun doing it. 

What are some of Motiv’s accomplishments you’re most proud of?

I’m very proud of all the things we’ve done so far, but three things really stand out in terms being transformational accomplishments:

1.     Very early on Motiv was able to compete for, and win, a contract with NASA JPL to design and manufacture the robotic arm for the next Mars rover, Mars 2020.  It has been a transformative effort for us and one that has enhanced every element of the company.

2.     Motiv has also managed to develop a line of flight qualified motor controllers which have now been selected to fly on over a half a dozen Space missions.  I am quite proud that, as a small business, we have been able to develop several new technologies that don’t exist anywhere else in the industry.


3.     In 2015 we started a subsidiary company, Motiv Robotics, to address the growing field of mobile robots here on earth.  Since then, we have developed a novel robot called RoboMantis to tackle a wide variety of mobile robotics missions.  RoboMantis is a uniquely capable robot designed to perform work in a human environment.  With applications ranging from industrial maintenance to disaster response and beyond, RoboMantis is set to revolutionize mobile robotics.

What was the last book you read?

As one could imagine, I’m a bit of a science fiction fan.  I just finished a fun book by Blake Crouch called “Dark Matter”.  It’s an interesting story regarding personal life choices, the multiverse and the main characters’ journey through his own “alternate choice” universes to find his way home.  It is definitely an entertaining read!

What makes Pasadena an attractive place to do business?

Pasadena is a very unique city. I can travel all over the world and when we tell people we are from Pasadena, the name recognition makes it a natural fit for a technology company like ours.  Its proximity to LA, the beaches, mountains, and cultural attractions helps us to recruit people.  We also enjoy a supplier base in the greater LA area that is among the best in the world which greatly aids in executing our challenging work.