The Australian startup Space Machines Company (SMC) has secured the support of SpaceX as a launch partner in carrying SMC's Optimus Orbital Transfer Vehicle (OTV) to space as a part of its April 2023 mission.
SMC says its Optimus OTV is one of the largest commercial spacecraft designed and manufactured in Australia. It says next year's mission will demonstrate the 270 kg Optimus OTV's ability to deliver in-space logistics services and will reinforce SMC's strategy as a last-mile delivery services provider. The 2023 mission will also see SMC deploy solutions for foundation customers.
The OTV will be assembled at SMC's facility in the University of Technology Sydney's (UTS) tech lab.
SMC says more than 6,000 active and inactive satellites are currently in orbit, and by 2030, there will be more than 100,000. As a result, the company says space will increasingly need infrastructure and logistics services to support and manage the exponential growth in satellites and debris around the globe.
SMC says its development of a local space logistics capacity is critical to ensuring Australia can meet this growing challenge and manage its satellites in space.
Space Machines Company's CEO, Rajat Kulshrestha, says logistics is the new frontier in space innovation.
"Space-based technology underpins a lot of the daily conveniences Australians have come to expect such as weather forecasting, emergency management, internet access and online banking," he says.
"To support and fully commercialise the potential of in-space service delivery, the right logistics infrastructure needs to be in place. Space Machines is leading the development of Australia's capability in this critical area and we are thrilled to be taking the next step in the commercialisation of our service with SpaceX."
Minister for Enterprise, Investment and Trade for NSW, Stuart Ayres, says Space Machines is at the forefront of Australia's space technology, and the NSW Government is proud to support its work.
"This latest mission sounds fascinating, and I've no doubt that its work will help drive improvements and solutions that put Australia at the forefront of this critical need," he says.
The SpaceX deal follows SMC's expansion to India, opening new offices in Bangalore to foster technological collaboration between the two countries. The company has also deepened its executive and advisory teams with two key appointments.
Mark Ramsey joins Space Machine's executive team as COO. Mr Ramsey has nearly 20 years of experience in the Space and Defence sectors, including executive director and general manager of SITAEL Australia and executive roles at Lockheed Martin, Thales Alenia Space, BAE Systems and NewSat. He is deputy chair and current director of the Space Industry Association of Australia (SIAA).
Anthony Kittel, founder and CEO of advanced electronics manufacturer Redarc Electronics, joins SMC as an Advisory Board member.