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March 21st, 2023
Arkisys and partners to demonstrate building and assembling a satellite in orbit on the Port

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Space Force awarded a $1.6 million contract to a team led by Southern California startup Arkisys to demonstrate robotic satellite assembly.

Under a SpaceWERX Small Business Innovation Research contract, Arkisys, Novawurks, Motiv Space Systems, Qediq, iBoss and Texas A&M University will demonstrate how they would assemble a three-axis stabilized satellite with the robotic arm on the Arkisys Port Module.

“This effort expands the overall services we have created to include the ability to utilize the robotic arm on top of the Port Module to assemble a separable space platform and then release it in orbit,” Dave Barnhart, Arkisys CEO and co-founder, told SpaceNews.

In-Orbit Assembly

The satellite to be assembled on the ground will be comprised of at least three Novawurks Slegos, box-shaped modules that provide capabilities like pointing, information processing and data storage. The Arkisys-led team also is likely to attach a camera or other payload to prove the utility of the new spacecraft.

“Through the unique SBIR process from U.S. Space Force and SpaceWERX, we will address using resources in space to create new platforms or modify them on the fly,” Talbot Jaeger, Novawurks chief technology officer, said in a statement. “The Port will demonstrate a platform that can create a space system from parts into an
operational element.”

Resolving Issues

Through the demonstration, the Arkisys-led team will “prove the fidelity of the robotic connections, the interfaces and the controls,” Barnhart said. In addition, the demonstration will identify issues to be resolved.

For example, operation of a robotic arm imparts momentum on a space platform. Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station will help the Arkisys-led team figure out how to keep the platform stable.

“The ability to assemble a functional satellite off of another platform is something that will open up not just Earth-orbit markets and on-the-fly changes to existing satellites, but on-demand satellites for lunar or Martian exploration,” Robert Ambrose, director of space and
robotics Initiatives at the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, said in a statement. “This is incredibly exciting for us as we are developing platforms to validate and demonstrate higher fidelity robotics on orbit, to build, assemble, repair and operate .”

For the demonstration, iBoss Space of Germany and Novawurks will supply the hardware and software interfaces. Motiv is providing the robotic arm. Qediq is helping Arkisys develop and build the Applique, a universal interface adapter to connect spacecraft payloads.

Arkisys was founded in 2014 to develop the Port, a platform in low-Earth orbit for prototyping, testing, assembly and integration. The Port also is designed to serve as a destination for orbital transfer vehicles.