Rogue Space Systems gets US Air Force funds to advance in-orbit servicing tech

Rogue Space Systems gets US Air Force funds to advance in-orbit servicing tech

Covering the business and politics of space

TAMPA, Fla. — Rogue Space Systems, a three-year-old startup with plans for a fleet of small in-orbit servicing spacecraft, announced more U.S. government funding Sept. 27 to develop core technologies.

The U.S. Air Force’s AFWERX technology accelerator awarded the Gilford, New Hampshire-based venture two contracts in July to advance work on a more universally compatible cubesat dispenser and a magnetic system for stabilizing tumbling space objects.

The 15-month, Phase 2 contracts are worth $3 million in total, Rogue chief operating officer Jon Beam told SpaceNews, bringing its total government funding to more than $7 million.

They follow two Phase 1 contracts worth a combined $5,000 to study the feasibility of the technologies.

Working in partnership with the University of Illinois, Rogue aims to produce a prototype dispenser at the end of one of the contracts that could host and deploy cubesats with either tabbed or railed frames.

The idea for a multi-purpose dispenser came after Rogue had to adjust the design of its initial servicers — which are cubesats it calls Orbots that remain largely under wraps — to fit with the different types of deployment systems that launch providers use.

Beam said Rogue’s dispenser would enable the company and licensees to deploy any cubesat into orbit, giving the Department of Defense and commercial companies more flexibility in their in-space missions.

Under the other AFWERX contract, Rogue aims to integrate University of Utah’s patented Omnimagnet mechanism with Orbot to de-tumble, capture, or otherwise manipulate orbital objects needing servicing.

Rogue announced plans last year to develop Orbot in partnership with SAIC, a $7.4 billion U.S. government services technology contractor, including two cubesats that were slated for a demonstration mission in 2023.

Jeromy Grimmett, Rogue’s CEO, said this mission has been pushed into 2024, and will use a 16U cubesat called Laura-1 to test rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO), potentially with a second 3U spacecraft called Barry-2.

“We have some open discussions that may not require us to send a second spacecraft, but that is to be determined,” Grimmett said via email.

Rogue plans to fly its first payload, Barry-1, on a SpaceX Transporter-9 rideshare mission no earlier than October to test computing software, including the ability to aggregate and process data from multiple sensors in real-time.

The Barry-1 payload has been integrated with a platform provided by EnduroSat, a Bulgarian cubesat specialist.

Beam said Rogue is currently raising funds from venture capitalists to support plans to perform its first satellite servicing mission by 2026.

Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously, he was Group Editor-in-Chief for Finance Information...

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