Space Force Announces Contract for a Satellite ‘Jetpack’ | Space

The Space Force is contracting with startup Starfish Space to build and launch a spacecraft that can dock with and maneuver aging satellites in geosynchronous orbit, a “first-of-its-kind” effort to embrace space mobility and logistics.

A Starfish spokesperson told Air & Space Forces Magazine the goal is to launch one of its Otter spacecraft by 2026. The company has not yet chosen a launch partner, the spokesperson added. 

Otter is designed to rendezvous and dock with satellites that were never designed or configured for docking, and to then use its own propulsion system to maneuver the larger spacecraft. Meeting with reporters this January, program executive officer for Assured Access to Space Brig. Gen. Kristin L. Panzenhagen referred to such a capability as a “backpack or a jetpack,” but the term used in a Space Systems Command press release is “augmented maneuver.”  

If successful, Otter and other augmented maneuver systems would contribute to what the Space Force calls dynamic space operations, in which satellites can be more rapidly and readily moved from one orbit to another, without worrying that doing so might cost the satellite its available fuel and shorten its expected lifespan.  

Satellites were not traditionally built to be refueld or serviced in flight. But as launch costs have declined, the Space Force…


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