Enabling universally compatible, non-invasive satellite docking
Seattle, WA – March 30, 2023 – Starfish Space Inc. announced today that it has been awarded a $3M contract from National Security Innovation Capital (NSIC) within the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) of the Department of Defense (DoD). The contract with NSIC will support Starfish Space’s development of the Nautilus capture mechanism, a core hardware component of the company’s Otter satellite servicing vehicle.
The majority of satellites currently on orbit were not designed to be docked with once in space, requiring innovative solutions to enable safe and reliable satellite servicing missions. Nautilus is designed so that it does not require any pre-installed docking hardware or specific components to be present on the client satellite to enable effective docking, significantly expanding the addressable market for the Otter relative to other in-space servicing platforms. The capture mechanism can dock with all common materials found on the exteriors of satellites, requiring only a smooth surface roughly the size of an outstretched hand to maintain contact.
An initial prototype of Nautilus, designed to use electrostatic adhesive technology, will fly on board Starfish Space’s Otter Pup demonstration satellite launching in 2023. If able to successfully dock using its Nautilus capture mechanism, the Otter Pup mission will be the first-ever docking of two commercial satellites in low-Earth orbit.
Running in parallel to Otter Pup, Starfish Space’s contract with NSIC will enable expanded terrestrial development, testing, and iteration of Nautilus prototypes, increasing technical maturity and readiness to conduct servicing missions at scale. As part of the contract, Starfish Space will continue to refine Nautilus’ electrostatic adhesive technology, in addition to developing and testing complementary end effector technologies.
“We are excited to partner with NSIC to advance the development of Nautilus, a critical enabler of our mission to finally make satellite servicing missions affordable and available for government and commercial customers,” says Trevor Bennett, Co-Founder of Starfish Space. “We are pleased to see NSIC recognize the value of these missions and the technology we are developing at Starfish.”
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About Starfish Space
Founded by former Blue Origin and NASA engineers, Starfish Space is developing the Otter servicing vehicle to extend the lives of satellites in geostationary orbit and dispose of space debris in low-Earth orbit. Starfish has been recognized by NSIC, NASA, the U.S. Space Force, and Air Force Research Laboratory for its innovation in satellite servicing technologies. Starfish Space is launching its Otter Pup demonstration mission with the goal of executing the first-ever docking of two commercial satellites in low-Earth orbit in fall 2023. For more information, please visit www.starfishspace.com.
Housed within the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), National Security Innovation Capital (NSIC) is a Department of Defense (DoD) initiative that provides funding to early-stage hardware startups commercializing dual-use technologies critical to national security and economic competitiveness. NSIC enables such startups to advance key milestones in their product development plans and reduce inherent technical risks by addressing the shortfall of private investment from trusted sources.
Starfish Space is developing Nautilus, a universal docking system allowing the company’s Otter servicing vehicle to attach to nearly any satellite on orbit. (Starfish Space illustration)