In-space transportation and logistics start-up Space Machines Company (SMC) has announced it has secured Elon Musk’s SpaceX as a launch partner to carry its Optimus Orbital Transfer Vehicle (OTV) into space in April 2023.
Weighing 270kg, SMC's Optimus OTV is one of the largest commercial spacecraft to be designed and manufactured in Australia, with the 2023 mission set to demonstrate its ability to deliver in-space logistic services and reinforce the Adelaide-based company's strategy as a last-mile delivery services provider.
"Logistics is the new frontier in space innovation. Space-based technology underpins a lot of the daily conveniences Australians have come to expect such as weather forecasting, emergency management, internet access and online banking,” Space Machines Company CEO Rajat Kulshrestha said.
“To support and fully commercialise the potential of in-space service delivery, the right logistics infrastructure needs to be in place.
“Space Machines is leading the development of Australia's capability in this critical area and we are thrilled to be taking the next step in the commercialisation of our service with SpaceX."
SMC hopes the announcement will strengthen its position as a key player in the Australian space industry as it looks to capitalise on the Federal Government’s $1.16 billion spending commitment to bolster the sector.
The spacecraft, which is designed to maintain, refuel, repair and decommission satellites and other spacecraft, will be assembled and integrated at a facility within The University of Technology Sydney’s (UTS) Tech Lab
With 100,000 active and inactive satellites set to be in orbit by 2030, compared to just more than 6,000 at present, SMC's development of space logistics infrastructure is critical to ensuring Australia can meet the growing challenge of managing its satellites in space.
SMC is also developing capabilities to cost-effectively insert small satellites into desired low earth orbits (LEO), geostationary earth orbits (GEO) and lunar orbits.
NSW Minister for Enterprise, Investment and Trade Stuart Ayres believes SMC is at the forefront of Australia’s space technology as is proud to support its work.
“Having previously supported the company through our Going Global Space to the USA Export Program, and as part of a remote delegation for IAC 2021, Space Machines continues to demonstrate its global value proposition and ability to advance technologies that Australians have the privilege to enjoy every day,” he said.
“We rely on space and satellite technology to mitigate, manage and respond to natural emergencies, broadcast information, communicate with our loved ones, use the internet and control our finances.
“This latest mission sounds fascinating and I’ve no doubt that its work will help drive improvements and solutions that put Australia at the forefront of this critical need.”
Federal initiatives such as the 16-year earth observation national space mission and the new Defence Space Command are expected to deliver commercial opportunities to the sector, providing space tech start-ups with additional support to further innovation and collaboration on a global scale.
The news follows the announcement of two senior executive appointments and the opening of SMC’s new hub in Bangalore, India to foster technological collaboration between the two countries.
Former SITAEL Australia general manager Mark Ramsey joined Space Machine's executive team as Chief Operating Officer (COO) after also previously holding executive roles at Lockheed Martin, Thales Alenia Space, BAE Systems and NewSat. He is deputy chair and current director of the Space Industry Association of Australia (SIAA).
In addition, Anthony Kittel, founder and CEO of advanced electronics manufacturer Redarc Electronics, joined SMC as an advisory board member.
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