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May 20, 2024

Space Systems Command (SSC) awarded Starfish Space a $37.5 million Strategic Funding Increase (STRATFI) contract to build, launch, and operate an Otter satellite vehicle for a first-of-its-kind docking mission designed to provide two years of augmented maneuver for National Security Space assets.


Through partnership with Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) SpaceWERX Program, Starfish Space, Space Safari, and SSC Commercial Space Office, SSC’s Assured Access to Space organization has expanded efforts to improve responsiveness, resilience and strategic flexibility of U.S. assets on-orbit; game-changing innovation and capabilities to win in today’s Great Power Competition.


The Otter spacecraft will be capable of performing autonomous rendezvous, proximity operations, and docking (RPOD), compatible with a wide range of clients, including those that were never designed or configured for docking. This capability gives the U.S. Space Force a range of options to support existing assets and allow future assets to be supported without imposing additional configuration requirements.  Advancing flexible RPOD capabilities with scalable architectures like the Otter is critical to the development of various Space Mobility and Logistics missions in support of the warfighter.


This effort builds on previous Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) efforts, advancing early Research & Development efforts to viable capabilities.


“This project is another step forward in delivering what our warfighters require in sustained space maneuver,” said Col. Joyce Bulson, Director, Servicing, Mobility, and Logistics within AATS. “For a particular class of spacecraft with particular mission sets in GEO, refueling may be the answer to sustaining maneuver; for other systems, augmented maneuver options may be the solution. There is a wide range of applications for Starfish Space’s Otter in addition to augmented maneuver, such as station-keeping or life extension, orbital transfer, and ultimately orbital disposal which assures access to key orbital slots while demonstrating responsible norms in space.”


Unique to the Department of the Air Force, the STRATFI (Strategic Funding Increase) program provides additional funds to scale Phase II SBIR efforts to achieve better technology transfer. STRATFI is structured to leverage private capital investment as a matching source of funds, with periods of performance up to four years, in order to de-risk development of emerging technology and transition research and development work into operational capabilities.


Space Systems Command is the U.S. Space Force’s field command responsible for acquiring and delivering resilient warfighting capabilities to protect our nation’s strategic advantage in and from space.  SSC manages a $15 billion space acquisition budget for the DoD and works in partnership with joint forces, industry, government agencies, academic, and allied organizations to accelerate innovation and outpace emerging threats. Our actions today position us to secure the nation’s strategic advantage in space.

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