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Space Machines Company-led project awarded $8.5 million through International Space Investment India Projects

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Satellite manufacturer Space Machines Company has announced a joint Indian-Australian mission on space debris management, supported by an $8.5 million grant from the Australian government.

SMC, which bills itself an “in-space servicing firm”, announced “Space MAITRI” (मैत्री, or Mission for Australia-India’s Technology, Research and Innovation) on Tuesday, saying the joint industry-led mission will “demonstrate progress towards space debris management and a sustainable space future.”

Space MAITRI is assisted by an $8.5 million grant from the Australian Space Agency, and is part of the International Space Investment India Projects program, building upon the concept of a broader 2018 ISI initiative.

The mission, led by the Australian company, will address the problem of increasing levels of space debris around Earth, which endanger both future space ventures and astronaut safety.

It will incorporate an Australian-built Orbital Servicing Vehicle, “integrated and launched from India on an Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) rocket” and “showcase advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence, and sustainability technologies” through the partnership between the two nations’ R&D and supply chains.

“As an Australian-Indian, I’m especially proud that the Sanskrit word ‘MAITRI’ meaning friendship and goodwill encapsulates the spirit of this pioneering international collaboration,” said Rajat Kulshrestha, CEO and Co-Founder of Space Machines Company, in a statement.

“Our vision is to provide long-term ‘Roadside Assistance in Space’, where spacecraft are repaired, refuelled, refurbished, recycled and removed at the end of life. By combining Australian innovation with Indian spaceflight heritage, we’ll make important strides in ensuring a safe and sustainable orbital environment for future space activities.”

Optimus, the company’s first Orbital Servicing Vehicle (OSV), was launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket last month. (A render of Optimus is pictured.)

Space Machines Company will cooperate with Digantara and Ananth Technologies on Space MAITRI on a satellite expected to weigh approximately 500 kilograms.

Digantara will provide an optical sensor designed to image and track Resident Space Objects (RSOs) in Low Earth Orbit, and Ananth will contribute engineering expertise and access to cleanroom facilities for integration and testing.

A total of $18 million was awarded to three projects under the International Space Investment India Projects program on Tuesday.

According to a statement from industry minister Ed Husic’s office, Skykraft was awarded $3.7 million “to propose and validate a new Position, Navigation and Timing system” and LatConnect60 was awarded “almost $5.8 million to develop and build a Low Earth Orbit satellite in Australia to collect information on carbon emissions at a very high resolution.”

Picture: credit Space Machines Company

Further reading

Space Machines’ Optimus satellite launched on SpaceX rocket

Space Machines Company, Orbit Fab to partner on 2024 mission

Space Machines completes space craft hardware integration

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