Plan to Build Satellites in Orbit Using Robots and ‘Space LEGO’ Gets Space Force Funding

Plan to Build Satellites in Orbit Using Robots and ‘Space LEGO’ Gets Space Force Funding

In an effort to reshape the growing satellite market, a group of private companies led by Arkisys is preparing to test a system that would enable the construction of spacecraft directly in orbit.

SpaceWERX, the innovation arm of the U.S. Space Force, awarded a $US1.6 million contract to Arkisys and its partners to demonstrate the assembly of a stand-alone, three-axis stabilised satellite using a robotic arm on an orbital port, the company announced on Monday. The companies are slated to begin the integration of the system this coming summer, with plans to demonstrate the technology on Earth in 2024.

“This is a critical, required step to demonstrate, de-risk, and confirm assembly in a 1G environment prior to performing assembly on-orbit in low Earth orbit,” Dan Lopez, chief business officer at Arkisys, told Gizmodo in an email.

The other companies involved are Qediq Inc, NovaWurks, Motive Space Systems, iBoss, and the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES), the latter being a state research agency.

Arkisys’s Port Module is a hexagonal shaped long-duration space platform that the company is hoping to launch in 2024. Working in low Earth orbit, the Port Module would allow for the construction of new satellites or the modification of units already in orbit. Think of it like a seaport, but in space.

The plan is for Arkisys to use modular technology developed by its partner Novawurks. Called Slegos, or space legos, these box-shaped building blocks can be assembled to form an operational satellite. A robotic arm provided by another commercial partner, Motiv Space Systems, will perform the assembly work, moving and adjusting the Slegos to form a new spacecraft.

“The demo will show a method of assembling a novel spacecraft utilising a robotic arm, mini spacecraft elements called Slegos, hardware interfaces, and key Arkisys technology required to tactically execute assembly operations on-orbit,” Lopez said.

Assembling satellites on Earth is already complicated enough, doing so in space adds a whole other layer of complexity. But if successful, the orbital satellite factory would open up a whole new realm for private and public ventures racing to get their satellites to space.

Twitter and bookmark Gizmodo’s dedicated Spaceflight page.

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

It’s the most popular NBN speed in Australia for a reason. Here are the cheapest plans available.

At Gizmodo, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.