Last week concluded the first STTR solicitation for a new space initiative, Orbital Prime. This new movement was driven forward by Space Prime, a recently established overarching SpaceWERX program, designed to prime the pump and drive investment to enhance the space market sector.
A primary focus of Orbital Prime is debris mitigation and removal. A huge driving factor for this initiative revolves around the threat of debris already floating around space. In a recent SpaceWERX video, General David D. Thompson, Vice Chief of Space Operations for the US Space Force, stated that the Space Force currently tracks more than 40,000 objects in space, and only about 5,000 of those are active satellites. The rest are additional debris about the size of one’s fist or larger. Conservative estimates believe there are at least ten times as many smaller objects in orbit that we cannot reliably track.
These articles of debris can move at upwards of 18,000 miles per hour and can cause significant damage upon impact with other objects in space. These objects in space play an essential role to our overall infrastructure, and damage to them could be detrimental.
SpaceWERX first asked for partnerships around this program back in November 2021, shortly after an anti-satellite test by Russia produced an excessive amount of debris, which presented a significant increase in the risk of potential strikes and damage to the International Space Station.
Shortly after, they released their STTR solicitation for Phase I, requesting an implementation of technology and plans to address these key issues.
Opportunities For Small Businesses
While the first round of solicitations closed last week, there will likely be ample upcoming opportunities for small businesses to offer their expertise and technologies in this arena. In a downloadable FAQ page on the SpaceWERX website, they shared, “The out-of-cycle STTR is just the initial funding opportunity for Orbital Prime.”
According to current plans, there will be various investment mechanisms involved to invest and drive technology maturation in areas of interest, including, but not limited to:
- Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)
- Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR)
- Strategic Funding Increase (STRATFI)
This provides a significant amount of R&D funding and partnership opportunities to small businesses that have technology solutions to offer the field. SpaceWERX expressed plans to share about these future opportunities for investment further in Spring of 2022.
According to SpaceWERX, at this time, there are three established Technical Tracks currently in focus:
- On-Orbit Object Approach: Approach and rendezvous with the Resident Space Object (RSO), to include space debris, etc., using approach and Rendezvous Proximity Operations (RPO) algorithms
- On-Orbit Object Acquisition: Capture and Control the orbital object and/or perform Rendezvous Proximity Operations Docking (RPOD)
- On-Orbit Object Service: Remediate the RSO by repairing, repositioning, refueling, deorbiting, reusing, or recycling, etc.
If your small business has innovative solutions or technologies that can compete in this field, our team is happy to talk with you and help you find the best path forward. Contact Long Capture today to learn more about government funding and what options you may have to get your product to the warfighter.
For more information about SpaceWERX, check out our past blog: SpaceWERX: Everything We Know So Far