Orbital Composites, based in Campbell, California, USA, has reportedly been awarded a $1.7 million US Space Force contract through the SpaceWERX Orbital Prime’s Small Business Innovation Research contract.
According to SpaceNews, Orbital Composites will collaborate with partners Axiom Space, Northrop Grumman, and the Southwest Research Institute to test robotic technology for the additive manufacturing of antennas. The antennas are intended for satellite-based cellular broadband and space-based solar power with kilometre-scale antennas with the hopes of ensuring that the technology can withstand the temperature extremes and radiation of space flight.
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“This prestigious SBIR award, coupled with our partnerships with Axiom Space, Northrop Grumman, and SwRI, marks a crucial juncture in our journey,” shared Cole Nielsen, Orbital Composites founder and chief technology officer. “Our Space Factories will leverage advanced robotics and autonomous systems to build high-performance antennas in space, reducing the cost.”
Orbital Composites and Axiom are set to design an in-space servicing, assembly, and manufacturing laboratory for installation outside the Axiom space station under phase 2 of the Orbital Prime contract. It is also believed that other components of the Axiom space station could be additively manufactured in the laboratory.
“The future of the in-space economy relies on large-scale, in-space manufacturing and assembly,” added Jason Aspiotis, Axiom director of in-space infrastructure and logistics. “The strategic partnership [with Orbital Composites] offers both companies a chance to accelerate their shared mission of advancing humanity’s presence in space.”
SpaceLogistics, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman, is said to be collaborating with Orbital Composites on geostationary applications for in-space servicing, assembly, and manufacturing. “On the GEO side, we’re thinking about extending servicing and about in-space assembly,” said Amolak Badesha, Orbital Composites co-founder and CEO.
The Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), however, will reportedly contribute software to ensure Orbital Composites’ in-space servicing, assembling and manufacturing technology can operate with a high degree of autonomy. “ISAM is incredibly important for the development and utilisation of space,” commented Branson Brockschmidt, SwRI senior robotics research engineer “In partnering with Orbital Composites on this SpaceWERX Orbital Prime SBIR, we intend to design and test systems in vacuum and thermal conditions to advance robotic ISAM.”
Orbital Composites reportedly aims to establish its first Space Factory in the next three to five years.