SAN FRANCISCO – Made In Space Europe won a Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA) contract to develop an inexpensive robotic arm for space applications, Made In Space Europe announced Dec. 9.
Made In Space Europe, part of LSA’s LuxImpulse program, will develop the first robotic arm designed specifically for low-cost space mission, under a contract managed by the European Space Agency (ESA), Jason Dunn, founder of Made In Space and Made In Space Europe, told SpaceNews by email. “This contract shows that ESA and LSA are committed to working with companies that are developing disruptive innovations that will dramatically reduce the barriers to entry for future space missions.”
Made In Space Europe declined to reveal the value of the contract.
“Historically, robotic arms designed for the space environment have been developed under large government contracts for single missions, resulting in high costs and continuously-extended development timelines,” said Dunn, who also serves as Made In Space Europe’s managing director. “Up until recently, with a current influx of robotics-dependent missions being planned and funded, the traditional method of developing one-off robotic arms met the market demand.”
Now that many more companies are planning space missions like satellite servicing and lunar surface operations, Made In Space Europe sees a market for a low-cost, scalable robotic arm.
“Made In Space Europe’s goal is to deliver an off-the-shelf robotic arm product to the commercial aerospace market that is easily-adapted for a variety of missions on short timelines and at a low cost,” Dunn said.
A demonstration mission for the robotic arm could occur as early as 2021, according to a Made In Space Europe news release.
“Our goal is to validate the product as efficiently as possible, while raising the technology readiness level in time for our early customers to use the robotic arm on their missions,” Dun said. “At this point we are still finalizing the details of initial demonstration missions with our customers.”
Demonstrations could occur on the International Space Station, a free-flying satellite or on the lunar surface, Dunn said.
In the United States, Made In Space is best known for sending 3D printers to the International Space Station. Made In Space Europe is focused on robotics and building off-Earth robotic capabilities for space industrialization. The ten-person company was founded in Luxembourg in early 2019. In the next year, the staff is likely to double, Dunn said.