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  • Satellite Evolution Group

NASA awards Outpost a Phase 2 Ignite SBIR contract to advance its cargo return system

Updated: Oct 5, 2023

NASA awards Outpost a Phase 2 Ignite SBIR contract to advance its cargo return system

Outpost Technologies Corporation announced that it has been awarded a Phase 2 Ignite Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) contract from NASA to continue development of the company’s “Cargo Ferry” in order to deliver cargo back to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS) and future commercial space stations in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The Outpost Cargo Ferry is an adaptation of the company’s Earth-returning Ferry satellite system, being built for commercial use. Applications of the Cargo Ferry include fast and reliable return of important cargo and payloads on ISS and commercial space stations including those with limited shelf life that need to be processed quickly on Earth.

The ISS is faced with the challenge of limited storage space in its labs and reducing stored cargo will allow for more scientific and R&D activities on the station. ISS also has more payloads waiting for return than Dragon's capacity can handle, and Cargo Ferry will fill the gap so that cargo will not be lost once ISS is decommissioned. A consistent method for prompt return of payload and cargo to Earth is also a gap in the business models for commercial LEO destinations that need to adapt rapidly in space.

A key component of the Outpost Earth return system is its compact design - about the size of a school backpack, which contains a flight-proven NASA heat shield to be deployed in space, thus maximizing space for customer payloads and making it a better fit for CLDs which are anticipated to be smaller than the ISS. Outpost’s satellite platform also includes a flight-proven re-entry system that has demonstrated the ability to achieve a 5-meter landing target accuracy. This landing-pad precision is a pivotal advancement for cargo return as many other capsule systems approach Earth with a dispersion range of over 1,000km, which carries uncertainty on the safety and efficiency of payload retrieval. Outpost is focused on creating an Earth return system that is more accurate, reliable, and adaptable to current and future NASA and commercial needs.

“For humans to expand our presence in space, we need the flexibility to transport new assets to space and, within the same mission, bring raw materials and existing assets back to Earth,” said Jason Dunn, Outpost Founder and CEO. “Our Cargo Ferry is the most cost-effective, flexible, and safe Earth return system in development, offering the most precise landing capability. We are pleased that NASA continues to value the engineering capabilities of Outpost in establishing this new operations paradigm.”

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