Orbital Prime

Vision: To accelerate transition of technologies and architectures that enable a sustainable space infrastructure and preserves an open and prosperous space domain.

Purpose and Impact

The first Space Prime effort, Orbital Prime, will invigorate the On-orbit Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing (ISAM) market using Active Debris Remediation (ADR) as a use case for the foundational technologies. As congestion and debris threaten the long-term sustainability of the space domain, Orbital Prime will transition agile, affordable, and accelerated ISAM space capabilities to build the foundation for space logistics while preserving the global commons. On-orbit capability will be demonstrated on an accelerated timeline in two to four years.

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Program Objectives

  • Develop the ISAM market and partnerships: Orbital Prime will help stimulate a safe and secure domestic ISAM market and supply chain through partnerships with academia, industry, investors, interagency, and allies. These partnerships will reduce technical, regulatory, and financial risk.
  • Aggressively pursue emerging technologies: Orbital Prime will pursue three ISAM ADR technology tracks:
    1. Resident Space Object (RSO) approach through Rendezvous Proximity Operations (RPO)
    2. RSO acquisition and docking; and
    3. RSO servicing, to include repairing, repositioning, refueling, deorbiting, reusing or recycling, etc.
  • Rapidly transition on-orbit capability: Using several tools, demonstrate ADR with dependable commercial partners and transition to an enduring, agile, and accessible ADR service.

Program Benefits

  • Build the technical foundation for ISAM, ADR, and Space Logistics
  • Inform buy or build decisions for the U.S. Space Force
  • Fuel dual-use capability technology maturation through partnerships with academia, industry, investors, interagency, and allies
  • Enable long-term investment and scaling opportunities for companies
  • Discover/develop new capability transition paths

How to Get Involved

The Orbital Prime program is improving the opportunity for companies awarded SBIR/STTR contracts to successfully transition their technology by implementing a focused Cohort Development Program and an Ecosystem Orchestration management approach.

Orbital Prime Cohort Development Program

The program provides companies with additional non-monetary resources to best position each company for a successful technology transition. These non-monetary resources include access to government technical Subject Matter Experts and test facilities, information on government procurement processes, introductions to sources of non-dilutive and dilutive capital, and networking opportunities with potential transition partners and end-users.

The Ecosystem Orchestration

This approach allows ecosystem participants to develop relationships, identify high-value connections, and conduct various transactions with the ISAM ecosystem. The ecosystem allows SpaceWERX to increase its return on investment by maintaining an understanding of the ecosystem’s landscape, leveraging natural ecosystem effects, and “orchestrating” improved interactions and information sharing between entities to achieve Orbital Prime goals.

Seeding Technology

SpaceWERX awarded 50 Phase II contracts to 41 different companies through the SBIR/STTR program, valued at $81 million. This brings the total Orbital Prime contracts awarded to 175, with a combined contract value of $121 million. From these contracts, demonstrations and prototype deliveries will occur from early to mid-2024. In addition, three Orbital Prime companies have submitted STRATFI proposals, which are currently under evaluation. The STRATFI awards would lead to on-orbit demonstrations of three different ISAM capabilities–Space Mobility (satellite relocation), recycling and servicing. Additionally, four more companies submitted TACFI proposals (currently under evaluation) to further develop their technologies and achieve on-orbit technology demonstrations.

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Commercial ISAM Market Emergence

Through the Ecosystem Orchestration approach, SpaceWERX has been able to facilitate a variety of connections, which indicate the beginning of a commercial ISAM Marketplace.

  • Six different Orbital Prime companies have formed at least three different teams for opportunities outside of Orbital Prime to continue the development of their respective ISAM Technologies.
  • At least one Orbital Prime company has initiated discussions with a commercial satellite owner to provide ISAM servicing capabilities.
  • NASA awarded Mission Concept Study contracts to five companies for a future Active Debris Remediation mission. Four of those five companies are Orbital Prime companies. Additionally, NASA is considering sponsoring several Orbital Prime companies for a TACFI contract.
  • Scout Space, an Orbital Prime company, is a subcontractor to SRI International under the IARPA SINTRA program.
  • Orbit Fab, an Orbital Prime company, is subcontracted to Astroscale US to provide in-space refueling technology under the Space Enterprise Consortium Other Transaction Agreement between Astroscale US and Space Systems Command Assured Access To Space programs.
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