Orbital ATK and Nasa start developing new robotic technologies for in-orbit applications


Orbital ATK has started a public-private partnership with Nasa’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) to establish a commercial infrastructure for robotic assembly and services (CIRAS) in space.

CIRAS will help improve major technologies for in-orbit manufacturing and assembly of large space structures, which will allow Nasa to meet its goals for robotic and human exploration of the solar system.

Orbital ATK has been selected to serve as prime contractor of CIRAS.

“Our CIRAS team will create technologies that will advance the nation’s capability for building the framework needed for Nasa’s journey to Mars."

Nasa’s Langley Research Center and Glenn Research Center, as well as the US Naval Research Laboratory and Orbital ATK subsidiary Space Logistics have also supported the programme.

Orbital ATK space systems group president Frank Culbertson said: “Orbital ATK and our Space Logistics subsidiary are pioneering the future of commercial space technology.

“Through this partnership and the first phase of the contract award, we will demonstrate our space logistics capabilities with new robotics technology.

“Our CIRAS team will create technologies that will advance the nation’s capability for building the framework needed for Nasa’s journey to Mars, as well as shape the future of commercial space infrastructure.”

During the two-year long first phase of CIRAS, which was already started, Orbital ATK will focus on maturing technologies necessary for robotic assembly of large space structures, including next-generation telescopes or solar-powered structures for transport or communications.

The technologies to be developed during the first phase include methods to connect or disconnect joints on a structure and address precision measuring and alignment through a 15m robotic arm and a precision robot.

In addition, the CIRAS team will also develop the technology required to conduct in-orbit modular assembly of structures, enabling parts to be brought to space as needed via multiple launches.