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Starfish Space and D-Orbit successfully conduct satellite rendezvous
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Starfish Space and D-Orbit successfully conduct satellite rendezvous
by Simon Mansfield
Sydney, Australia (SPX) May 08, 2024

In a significant development in space logistics, Starfish Space and D-Orbit have successfully completed an on-orbit rendezvous between Starfish's Otter Pup and D-Orbit's ION SCV006 satellite. The coordinated effort involved precise maneuvering by the ION satellite, culminating in a close approach where Otter Pup captured detailed images of the ION spacecraft.

The mission began with recovery from initial technical challenges, including high rotation rates and a thruster issue. These were overcome to test and validate the core technologies of Otter Pup, leading to the decision in January to attempt this complex rendezvous. The meticulous planning and calibration of maneuvers by both teams ensured the alignment and eventual successful flyby, with critical support from the European Union Satellite Centre's Space Surveillance and Tracking Operations Centre (EUSST S3TOC).

"Beyond validating a core capability, these images will provide invaluable data for our ongoing GNC software development. Continuing to operate Otter Pup gave us a lot of value; it allowed us to increase our satellite operations experience, and to test and validate software and hardware on-orbit, including the camera system that was used to capture these images," said Dr. Trevor Bennett, Co-founder of Starfish Space.

This operation marks a milestone in demonstrating the ION satellite's capabilities, further establishing D-Orbit as a leader in orbital transportation and logistics. "The successful flyby between Starfish Space's Otter Pup and our ION SCV006 is a great achievement for both companies," commented Matteo Bartolini, VP of Sales Engineering at D-Orbit. "This operation not only demonstrates the precision and reliability of our ION spacecraft but also highlights the robust capabilities of our teams working in concert with Starfish. Achieving such a complex maneuver truly underscores our commitment to advancing the field of satellite servicing and orbital operations."

Contributions from partners like Redwire Space, which provided the camera system, LeoLabs, offering critical orbital data, and

Astro Digital, which supported operational aspects, were instrumental in the mission's success.

"Executing this rendezvous means we absolutely maximized the value we could get out of Otter Pup, in spite of the numerous challenges we faced, from emergency deployment to thruster failure," said Bennett. "Space domain awareness (capturing images of other objects in space), is often a mission in and of itself. We were able to execute this task as a backup after multiple challenges and failures. This was a rewarding way to conclude our first demonstration mission, and we look forward to returning to orbit with our next mission to push our capabilities forward."

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