Kayhan Space awarded SpaceWERX orbital prime contract
With the space economy and critical defence initiatives dependent on safe rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO), Kayhan Space, along with partners Astroscale US and the University of Texas at Austin, today announced it has won a US Space Force award to develop an intelligent platform that autonomously enables spacecraft to safely engage with on-orbit support vehicles for services such as refuelling, maintenance, debris removal and national security.
Kayhan Space has been selected by SpaceWERX for an Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase 1 to investigate how its Kayhan Proxima solution will enable in-space service assembly and manufacturing (ISAM) capabilities being explored by the Department of the Air Force (DAF) and United States Space Force (USSF) through the Orbital Prime program. Orbital Prime was created to accelerate the commercial ISAM market toward a use case of active debris remediation.
The Air Force Research Laboratory and SpaceWERX have partnered to streamline the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and STTR process by accelerating the small business experience through a faster proposal to award timelines, changing the pool of potential applicants by expanding opportunities to small business and losing bureaucratic overhead by continually implementing process improvement changes in contract execution.
During Phase 1 of the STTR SpaceWERX program, Kayhan Space will collaborate closely with Astroscale US engineers and UT-Austin spaceflight researchers and students to deliver a first-of-its-kind optimized RPO management solution to support secure space commerce and national security activities.
A feasibility study of the RPO management platform will be delivered early next year, while a prototype and Phase 2 demonstration mission is planned for 2024.
The autonomous RPO offering, named Kayhan Proxima, will initially be deployed as a zero-SWaP enhancement of Astroscale’s flight software package to effectively and efficiently direct and manage safe and repeatable RPO manoeuvres and missions using the existing cameras, sensors, telescopes, and other hardware aboard the demo-mission spacecraft.
“Kayhan Space is already empowering leading satellite operators to leverage real-time conjunction assessment and collision avoidance with Kayhan Pathfinder to help hundreds of spacecraft steer clear of pile ups in popular orbits,” explained Siamak Hesar, Kayhan Space CEO and Co-Founder. “And now we’re building on that proven expertise with our Kayhan Proxima solution, in collaboration with Astroscale US and UT-Austin, to ultimately bring spacecraft close together safely to drive a sustainable space economy and defence with autonomous RPO.”
Kayhan Proxima will allow close proximity among spacecraft in extremely popular and busy orbits by enabling repeatable, safe and autonomous RPO missions and manoeuvres with minimal manual support, versus current RPO and mission extension initiatives that require dozens of ground control staff.
“Safe and reliable RPO is the foundation on which the entire on-orbit servicing and ISAM ecosystem is being built,” said Ron Lopez, President and Managing Director of Astroscale US “Our approach to on-orbit servicing is one of collaboration, which is why we’re thrilled to bring our RPO expertise to this dynamic team composed of small business and the academic sector. We are confident that together, we will provide the Space Force and SpaceWERX a solution that achieves their vision to enable sustainable space operations.”
“This STTR program will support one of our graduate students and will provide a great opportunity for our university to play an integral role in enabling the Space Force to ultimately drive more efficient and safe RPO operations in space,” said Renato Zanetti, Assistant Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics Professor, University of Texas at Austin.