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Experimental orbital services vehicle Optimus set for launch
The development and upcoming launch of Optimus signal a new era for the Australian space industry, with Space Machines Company at the forefront of this transformative journey. By extending the life of satellites, enhancing space sustainability, and fostering international collaborations, Optimus is set to make a significant impact on the future of space operations and the broader space economy.
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Experimental orbital services vehicle Optimus set for launch
by Simon Mansfield
Adelaide, Australia (SPX) Feb 27, 2024

The Space Machines Company has announced the completion of Optimus, Australia's largest-ever private satellite. This Orbital Servicing Vehicle (OSV) represents a significant leap in Australia's sovereign space capabilities, poised to provide critical life-extension services, inspections, and assistance to the existing space infrastructure.

Rajat Kulshrestha, CEO of Space Machines, highlighted the collaborative effort behind Optimus, emphasizing the years of dedicated work from engineers, scientists, and both local and international partners. This partnership has not only culminated in the creation of Optimus but has also set the stage for innovative satellite services designed to extend operational lifetimes, reduce space debris, and enable the sustainable expansion of space activities.

Central to Optimus's mission are the cutting-edge technology payloads it carries, contributed by leading partners. Among these, Advanced Navigation has introduced a revolutionary Digital Fiber Optic Gyroscope (DFOG) Inertial Navigation System (INS), with CEO Xavier Orr noting Optimus's role in demonstrating highly precise navigation capabilities. This technology is critical for efficient maneuvering within and between orbits, optimizing mission success while conserving fuel and time.

Orbit Fab, a pioneer in on-orbit refueling services, has equipped Optimus with fiducial markers, providing essential position and orientation data for safe and reliable operations. Daniel Faber, CEO of Orbit Fab, expressed excitement over the collaboration, emphasizing its importance in advancing cooperative refueling and sustainable space operations.

Further enriching the mission, ANT61 brings to Optimus the world's first neuromorphic computer at the core of autonomous robotics technology. This innovation is expected to facilitate future in-orbit docking and refueling missions, with the Sydney-based company aiming to lead in the $10 billion in-orbit servicing market and support the development of infrastructure for an international lunar base.

The satellite also hosts a range of innovative payloads from Australian and international partners, including HEO Robotics's space domain awareness camera, Esper's hyperspectral camera, Spiral Blue's in-space image processor, and Dandelions's high-powered network processor. These technologies aim to test and demonstrate capabilities that could redefine space technology applications.

Support from government agencies such as Investment NSW, the Australian Space Agency, Defence Space Command, and the Government of South Australia has been crucial in bringing Optimus to fruition. This support underscores the importance of public-private partnerships in advancing national space objectives.

Optimus is scheduled for launch aboard SpaceX's Transporter-10 mission, targeting a departure from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California no earlier than March 2024. This collaboration with SpaceX not only showcases the international dimension of space exploration efforts but also Australia's growing influence in the global space economy.

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