The first ever satellite docking with electric propulsion; expected to dock in fall of 2023.
Tukwila, Washington – Nov 9, 2022 – Starfish Space, a satellite servicing company founded by former Blue Origin and NASA engineers, announced today that its Otter Pup satellite will launch in Spring of 2023 to dock with another satellite in Fall of 2023. This mission will achieve many firsts, including being the first ever satellite docking with high performance low-thrust electric propulsion, and the first ever commercial satellite docking in Low Earth Orbit.
Autonomously docking satellites in orbit is an incredibly complex and intricate task. It’s also the essential technology to enable satellite servicing (the ability to interact with and improve satellites on orbit).
The types of missions unlocked by this technology include space debris disposal, satellite life extension, and eventually in-space logistics, on-orbit assembly, and more. Dynamic and interactive missions represent a new paradigm for how humans can go out into the universe. By docking with electric propulsion, Starfish Space will be able to build smaller, more efficient vehicles that for the first time enable this new paradigm in a cost-efficient manner.
“We are trying to dock a satellite at 5% the cost of any similar mission in history,” says Starfish Space Co-Founder Trevor Bennett. “This mission will be an extraordinary demonstration of Starfish Space’s ability to do affordable satellite servicing for the first time ever.”
With the Otter Pup mission, Starfish Space will demonstrate the essential core pieces of technology to open up the new paradigm of satellite servicing. There are three major Starfish rendezvous, proximity operations, and docking (RPOD) technologies that will be demonstrated by this mission.
- CETACEAN, computer vision navigation software, will determine the relative position of the docking target.
- CEPHALOPOD, autonomous trajectory planning software, will close the distance from several kilometers away to docking.
- Nautilus, an electrostatic based capture mechanism, will hold on the docking target for a secure attachment.
To bring the Otter Pup docking mission to life around their key enabling technologies, Starfish Space has built a tremendous team of partners throughout the space industry. Astro Digital manufactures the Otter Pup satellite bus. Launcher provides the Orbiter OTV, which will both deliver Otter Pup to its initial altitude, and serve as the docking target. Exotrail provides the electric propulsion thruster. Redwire’s Argus camera hardware is being used for relative navigation. Honeybee Robotics supported the mechanical design of Nautilus. The full satellite is being launched on a SpaceX Falcon9 rocket as part of their Transporter 8 mission.
Successfully docking Otter Pup with the Orbiter satellite will be an incredible milestone in the development of Starfish Space. Otter Pup will test all of the key technologies necessary for the fully grown Otter. Following on the Otter Pup, the Otter satellite servicing vehicle will be sized to extend the life of geostationary satellites, and dispose of space debris in commercially viable manners. By paving the way for these exciting commercial use cases, the Otter Pup docking mission represents the next step in the future of satellite servicing and the new paradigm for how humans operate in space.
About Starfish Space:
Starfish Space is giving life to on-orbit services. Founded by former Blue Origin and NASA engineers, Starfish is developing the Otter, the first small and versatile satellite servicer that will decrease costs and increase availability for satellite servicing missions including life extension and space debris disposal. Starfish technologies, including proprietary CEPHALOPOD autonomous RPOD software, CETACEAN relative navigation software, and Nautilus hardware-agnostic docking mechanism are the keys to logistics, autonomy, and robotics infrastructure for the developing off-world economy and orbital industries like manufacture, assembly, tourism, and mining. Additional details at www.starfishspace.com