TAMPA, Fla. – Arianespace is testing the compatibility of its rockets with Orbital Transfer Vehicles (OTVs) developed by the Space Machines Company, an Australian startup.
The companies signed an agreement on Oct. 30 that lays the foundation for their partnership, which could later see them offer joint services to customers looking for post-launch space transportation.
Optimus-1, SMC’s first 270 kilogram space tug, is scheduled to debut in the second quarter of 2023 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 wheeled mission into low Earth orbit (LEO).
After separating from the rocket, Optimus-1 is scheduled to carry Australian cargo to its final destinations in orbit once it is qualified for flight.
SMC has not released technical details about Optimus-1, which was originally scheduled to launch in 2022 on a small launch vehicle being developed by Gilmour Space, another Australian startup.
Gilmour said Oct 10 The first announcement of the Eris rocket is scheduled for the first half of 2023.
SMC is also developing OTVs for cargo transport beyond LEO and into deep space and for in-orbit services, including refueling.
The startup aims to make the Optimus family of space tugs compatible “with as many launch vehicles as possible around the world.”
These include Arianespace’s medium-lift Vega C rocket, which made its maiden flight in July, and the larger Ariane 6 launch vehicle, which debuted recently. postponed until at least late 2023.
Arianespace CEO Stéphane Israël said the company is looking for other space tug partners to support the “last mile-to-orbit delivery” of cargo.
In 2020, Arianespace launched the first ION Satellite Carrier space tug for Italy’s D-Orbit with an earlier iteration of Vega C.
In August, the French Launch Service announced plans to deploy the Sherpa OTV from Vega rockets.
Spaceflight said it could launch its first OTV to Vega in late 2023 or early 2024.
The American company has deployed five Sherpa OTVs to date on four SpaceX missions.
The OTV partnership with Arianespace came about five months later SpaceX announced plans to end its partnership with Spaceflight.
OTV applications, including last-mile delivery and hosted load-loading, will “generate $100 million in revenue over the next decade,” according to a recent report from analysts at BryceTech.
Growing OTV applications also include in-orbit inspection and debris removal services.