SpaceX Just Launched Australia’s Largest Private Satellite Ever Into Orbit

SpaceX Just Launched Australia’s Largest Private Satellite Ever Into Orbit

Optimus, the largest private satellite to ever be developed and built in Australia, is heading into space right now, aboard a SpaceX rocket, with the goal of providing in-space assistance to other missions.

This morning, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base. Aboard the rocket was a humble satellite from Down Under, Optimus, built by Space Machines Company.

We’ve written about Optimus’ creators Space Machines Company before, and their work is pretty darn cool. A startup with partnerships from CSIRO, Optus, and SpaceX, the company wants to offer what it considers to be the space version of NRMA.

Instead of flat tyres, though, the company wants to help out with much more technical issues – repairing broken modules, such as solar panels or thrusters, in situations humans can’t really get to with a tyre jack and cable jumpers.

It’s what Space Machines Company calls an ‘Orbital Servicing Vehicle’, and the first of its name, Optimus, has been sent into space to prove the concept with a “full testing campaign”, according to the startup.  

“The successful launch of Optimus opens up new possibilities for how satellites are launched and operated,” Space Machines Company CEO Rajat Kulshrestha said.

“We believe it will transform the economics of space infrastructure. As the foundational asset in our architecture of servicing vehicles designed to repair, refuel, upgrade and relocate other satellites, Optimus enables us to provide services to extend satellite lifetimes, reduce space debris and sustainably scale space activities.”

Mind you, it’s not the largest ‘Australian satellite’ ever, but it is the largest to be designed and manufactured on-shore. Sky Muster, the NBN Co satellite that provides wireless internet access to regional and rural communities, weighs a considerable 6,405kg, while Optimus only weighs a cool 270kg. Optus’ ‘D1’ satellite also weighs a modest 2,300kg, but whose comparing? These other satellites were designed and built elsewhere.

Space Machines Company reckons the new satellite will herald a new era of sustainability in space, where there is a lot of junk. Being able to repair the stuff that’s up there, extend tech lifetimes, and inspect critical infrastructure will have huge benefits for us down on the ground, and potentially if we head to Mars one day.

The startup is currently looking for international partners and opportunities to expand its plan with its orbital servicing vehicles.

Anyway – good going Space Machines Company. Love your stuff.

Image: Space Machines Company, Tom Dixon, Will Tom

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