Space Machines Company’s partnership with Orbit Fab blasts into orbit aboard SpaceX Transporter

Space Machines Company’s partnership with Orbit Fab blasts into orbit aboard SpaceX Transporter

The SpaceX Transporter-10 launch in the US with the Space Machines Company payload onboard

The mission by Adelaide-based Space Machines Company to deliver ‘roadside assistance’ to space vehicles has blasted into space in partnership with US-based orbit refuelling specialist Orbit Fab following the launch of SpaceX Transporter-10 in the US earlier today.

The trans-Pacific partnership, announced late last year, combines the respective expertise of Space Machines and Orbit Fab to advance their in-space servicing capabilities which they say is vital to creating a sustainable space ecosystem.

Space Machines Company, which has a manufacturing base in Sydney, says the partnership is initially focused on the installation of Orbit Fab’s space fiducial alignment markers on Space Machine Company’s orbital servicing vehicle, Optimus.

The markers are said to act like QR Codes in space, allowing Optimus to verify data in real-time as it approaches spacecraft to safely and securely complete missions such as repairs and refuelling.

Optimus, Australia’s largest private satellite, is providing on-orbit, transportation and other in-space services following its launch into orbit today the SpaceX Transporter-10.

Among the payloads on Optimus-1 is the state-of-the-art printed flexible solar cell technology developed by Australia’s national science agency CSIRO which is aimed at delivering lightweight energy solutions for the sector.

Both Space Machines and Orbit Fab, which are planning to launch future missions on board SpaceX Transporter rideshares, say their ongoing collaboration will play a ‘pivotal role’ in defining the commercial technology to unlock on-orbit refuelling, servicing, repair, and de-orbit innovation for the global space sector. 

“This collaboration represents a significant milestone in the advancement of in-space servicing technologies,” says Rajat Kulshrestha, the Space Machines Company co-founder and CEO.

“It is the first purely commercial partnership of its kind and will serve as a pioneering example of in-space validation of these groundbreaking technologies.

“By leveraging our respective strengths and expertise, Space Machines Company and Orbit Fab are setting a new standard for international collaboration in the space industry.”

Orbit Fab, which is based in Lafayette, Colorado, provides in-space refuelling services that extend the life of space missions while driving cost-savings and providing revenue opportunities for aerospace companies undertaking earth orbit missions.

“Orbit Fab was founded to eliminate the single-use spacecraft paradigm through in-space refuelling,” says Orbit Fab CEO Daniel Faber.

Render of the Space Machines Company's Optimus satellite


“Our collaborative work with Space Machines Company demonstrates cooperative docking alignment markers that support safe, sustainable space operations.

“We provide these spacecraft fiducials to support cooperative refuelling in space, but they can also support any satellite servicing activities. By simply including a low-footprint fiducial market, any company can make its assets serviceable just as Space Machines Company has done.”

Meanwhile, the CSIRO’s payload aboard Optimus-1 launched via the SpaceX Transporter-10 mission today, will explore the potential of printed flexible solar cells as a reliable energy source for future space missions with Space Machines Company.

CSIRO’s space program director Dr Kimberley Clayfield says the development of spacecraft with low-mass and high-efficiency power systems remains a key challenge for space vehicle launches.  

“CSIRO’s printed flexible solar cells could provide a reliable, lightweight energy solution for future space operations and exploration,” says Clayfield.

“If the space flight test reveals similar performance as we’ve shown in the lab, this technology offers significant advantages over traditional silicon-based solar.”

In a further boost to the Australian space industry, the federal government has moved to back the sector through a series of grants totalling $9 million for 12 projects that support NASA’s Artemis Moon exploration program. Among the projects to receive funding are:

  • Valiant Space (Queensland), which will receive $934,500 to develop a new non-toxic propulsion system that will support more sustainable and responsible use of space. 
  • NextAero (Victoria), which will receive $1 million to design, manufacture and validate cutting-edge cryogenic rocket propellants, which are predicted to be central to next generation sustainable spacecraft and rocket systems.
  • HEO (NSW), which will receive $742,164 to develop advanced cameras for imaging satellites to better track space debris and objects, ensuring safe and sustainable use of space.
  • Neumann Space (South Australia), which will receive $1 million to locally develop a world-class spacecraft electric propulsion manufacturing and test facility, to support national and international space missions. 

The government says the ‘Moon to Mars’ grants will assist these Australian companies to enter global space supply chains.

“These projects show the agility and innovative nature of Australia’s space companies, and how we can carve our niche in big international missions,” says Enrico Palermo, head of the Australian Space Agency.

“Space is a global endeavour and by working with our partners like NASA we can create outcomes that benefit Australia, while also contributing to solutions to global challenges.”

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