Altius to Contribute Technology to Robotic Arms for DoD On-Orbit Servicing

As we move into spring, we wanted to share more detail on a major project underway, and one that will be a significant part of everyday operations at Voyager’s Altius Space Machines over the next two years.

In closing out 2021, our team received exciting news from the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU): Maxar Technologies was selected to aid in the design and delivery of two robotic arms to support the in-space assembly and servicing capabilities for the U.S. Department of Defense, and Altius and SRI International are part of Maxar’s team on the contract. DIU is a critical organization accelerating the adoption of commercial space technology throughout the military, and these robotic arms will benefit both commercial and government customers.

The contract enables Maxar and its partners Altius and SRI to develop two flight-ready robotic arms, each 2 meters in length. Each arm will be underactuated, with a single motor running a tensioned cable system to transmit torque to any number of joints, reducing weight and cost. SRI’s patented electrostatic clutches will enable high fidelity movement while reducing component complexity and mass. Altius will supply novel and capable interfaces for each robotic arm, key technologies for the success of the project.

Altius will provide its MagTag™ universal satellite servicing interface, and the Dust Tolerant Tool-changer Interface (DTTI). The MagTag is designed to be a universal servicing interface for satellites, fitting within a 1U form factor. The DTTI is an Electropermanent Magnetic latching tool changer, which holds tools and react loads on the end of a robotic arm without complex latching mechanisms, which can be prone to degradation from environmental contamination. Both interfaces utilize Altius’ electro-permanent magnet (EPM) technology to establish reliable latching forces with no moving parts or parasitic power draw to maintain grip. These interfaces will also provide Maxar’s robotic arms with a competitive advantage over alternate systems.

The development of these interfaces are the culmination of Altius’ more than 10 years of experience and precise capabilities in on-orbit inspection, repairs, refueling, upgrades and de-orbiting. Our mission is to support sustainable space and provide cost-effective and reliable satellite servicing, and today marks a major step forward in achieving this goal.

To the future!

This rendering shows Maxar’s robotic arms working on an in-space assembly and servicing mission for DIU. Image credit: Maxar.