Former SpaceX VP Lee Rosen final week was named president and chief technique officer of ThinkOrbital
WASHINGTON — ThinkOrbital, an area infrastructure startup, is designing an orbital platform aimed toward industrial companies, navy and authorities businesses that need to manufacture merchandise in orbit or recycle particles.
The Lafayette, Colorado-based firm final 12 months misplaced out in NASA’s competition to develop industrial house station ideas and is now engaged on a brand new product that it believes is extra viable, mentioned Lee Rosen, ThinkOrbital’s co-founder, president and chief technique officer.
A former vice chairman at SpaceX, Rosen grew to become an advisor to ThinkOrbital when the corporate was based in early 2021. Final week he was named president as the corporate pursues plans to lift funds and reveal on-orbit meeting.
The applied sciences required to construct platforms in low Earth orbit exist already, Rosen advised SpaceNews. However they should be engineered so buildings might be assembled autonomously and scalable for various clients, he mentioned.
The corporate’s spherical habitat, referred to as ThinkPlatform, can be assembled in space utilizing a robotic arm. Rosen mentioned it might function as a part of a bigger industrial station or docked with an area automobile like SpaceX’s Starship.
“This platform might be for manufacturing, human habitation, navy purposes and whatnot,” Rosen mentioned. “And the excellent news is we don’t must bend any physics to make it occur. In-space electron beam welding was demonstrated by the Soviets within the 80s so we all know it really works. We need to do an inflight demo so now we have the information ourselves. However we’re assured that it really works.”
Earlier this 12 months ThinkOrbital — with companions Redwire, KMI and Arizona State College — gained two research contracts price $260,000 underneath the U.S. Space Force Orbital Prime program for in-space servicing, meeting and manufacturing. Rosen mentioned the plan is to refine the design idea for an area construction that may very well be used for particles elimination and recycling.
“We’re engaged on a hub and spoke idea the place smaller satellites would exit and collect the particles, carry it again to a central location, course of it and we might both flip them into gasoline or deorbit them,” mentioned Rosen. “We might course of particles at that hub, for instance, and switch aluminum into aluminum powder that may very well be used for spacecraft gasoline.”
ThinkOrbital is hoping to be chosen for the following section of Orbital Prime which may very well be price as much as $1.5 million.
“We hope to have the ability to work with the House Drive as one of many organizations which might be fascinated with in-space manufacturing,” mentioned Rosen.
He mentioned the way forward for in-space manufacturing stays unclear however might achieve momentum when industrial firms begin deploying house stations in LEO.
The expectation is that high-speed pc chips, fiber optics or pharmaceutical merchandise shall be manufactured in house, “however the motive why in-space manufacturing doesn’t exist on a big scale is as a result of there’s nowhere to do it. They only don’t have the room on the Worldwide House Station to do all the issues that may very well be executed.”
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