WASHINGTON — Gravitics, a startup developing modules for commercial space stations, will use its technologies for tactically responsive space applications for the U.S. Space Force.

The company announced April 25 it won a $1.7 million Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract from SpaceWERX, the innovation arm of the Space Force. The contract, a “direct to phase 2” SBIR award, is in partnership with Space Systems Command’s Space Safari Program Office.

Gravitics, based near Seattle, is developing modules for use on future commercial space stations. One concept, called StarMax, is a cylindrical module with an aluminum full 7.6 meters in diameter and offers 400 cubic meters of volume, about 40% of the volume of the entire International Space Station.

The company said it will apply those technologies for tactically responsive space, or TacRS, applications. “Gravitics’ commercial space station modules can support a wide range of military and civilian applications, including in-space rapid response applications,” the company said in a statement about the SBIR award.

“We are looking at all options to meet the mission on tactically relevant timelines. The Gravitics space station module offers an unconventional and potentially game-changing solution for TacRS,” said Lt. Col. Jason Altenhofen, director of operations for Space Safari, a part of Space Systems Command leading work on tactically responsive space applications, in the statement.

The company did not elaborate on the specific work it will be doing under the SBIR or how its module technologies would be used for tactically responsive space. A source familiar with the effort said that the award covered work on architectures, requirements and initial hardware development.

SpaceWERX organized a TacRS Space Challenge last year to seek concepts from industry in space and ground systems to support tactically responsive space. Altenhofen said last fall that the challenge was intended to “send a demand signal” to industry about tactically responsive space, offering SBIR awards and opportunities for future work.

Gravitics said it is working with Rocket Lab, True Anomaly, Space Exploration Engineering and Eta Space on its contract. Rocket Lab and True Anomaly won Space Force contracts April 11 to develop the Victus Haze tactically responsive space mission. Space Exploration Engineering does work in the design, planning and operations of space missions. Eta Space is developing cryogenic fluid technologies and has a NASA contract to perform a flight test of a liquid oxygen fluid management system.

The company says the Space Force contract does not represent a change in direction. “Developing and manufacturing commercial space station modules will continue to be at the core of our company mission,” Colin Doughan, chief executive of Gravitics, said in a statement. “Gravitics is thrilled to have the opportunity to offer these commercial capabilities to the Department of Defense.”

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...