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Scientific Systems wins SpaceWERX contract for space debris solutions
Scientific Systems lands contract for US-RIPTIDE to boost in-space manufacturing capabilities.
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Scientific Systems wins SpaceWERX contract for space debris solutions
by Brad Bartz
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Oct 20, 2023

Scientific Systems, renowned for its autonomous system solutions, has clinched a $1.5 million Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase II contract from SpaceWERX, as part of the latter's Orbital Prime Program. The contract focuses on Scientific Systems' vision-based technology, known as US-RIPTIDE (Unknown Satellite Realtime Inspection, Pose, Tracking and IDEntification). The technology aims to facilitate In-space Service Assembly and Manufacturing (ISAM), an area of interest for both the Department of the Air Force (DAF) and the United States Space Force (USSF).

Orbital Prime is a specialized initiative designed to expedite the ISAM market, focusing on the real-world application of Active Debris Remediation. To hasten the process from proposal to contract award, SpaceWERX has collaborated with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). The partnership aims to expand the pool of potential small business applicants and reduce bureaucratic overhead.

The contract awarded to Scientific Systems is one among 20 similar STTR Phase II contracts granted by SpaceWERX, summing up to a total of $30 million allocated to the Orbital Prime Cohort. This cohort also includes recent awardees of the D2P2 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The cluster of awardees will investigate ISAM-related technologies, focusing on the identification, approach, and servicing of celestial objects.

The long-term objective of the Orbital Prime program is to stage an on-orbit mission, the goal of which is to demonstrate the practicability of active space debris remediation. This will serve a public purpose and is expected to stimulate the commercial space logistics market.

Dr. Owen Brown, Vice President of Solutions Development at Scientific Systems, remarked, "This award puts us on a path to create 'RPO-in-a-box.' That is, a stand-alone, modular hardware plus software product that rapidly integrates onto a servicing vehicle to ensure that vehicle approaches a client satellite safely, or the inverse, where that product provides a client vehicle the ability to ensure a satellite approaches it safely."

Elaborating on the company's confidence in this modular approach, Dr. Brown added that a similar strategy had been successful in airborne operations with their OASES product, which integrates onto unmanned aircraft to enhance flight safety. He also noted the ongoing collaboration with their academic partner, Stanford University, and their Space Rendezvous Laboratory.

Professor Simone D'Amico, Founder and Director of the Space Rendezvous Laboratory at Stanford University, stated, "By integrating our machine-learning based relative navigation approaches with unique algorithms being created by Scientific Systems, I believe we're creating new capabilities for the rapidly developing on-orbit servicing and manufacturing ecosystem."

Dr. Sean Phillips, Deputy Technical Advisor of the Space Control Branch and the Resilient Multi-Satellite Autonomy Technical Lead at the Air Force Research Laboratory, added that the envisioned technology would serve as an "out-of-the-box solution to enable next-generation autonomous satellite operations for close-proximity interactions like satellite inspection, a precursor to ISAM operations and debris removal."

The views and opinions conveyed in this report belong to the author and do not necessarily mirror the official policy or stance of the Department of the Air Force, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.

Related Links
Scientific Systems Company
AFWERX
Stanford's Space Rendezvous Laboratory
Space Technology News - Applications and Research

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