Okapi:Orbits publicly released its first automated collision avoidance service. Since it was founded in 2018, Okapi has been developing software that harnesses artificial intelligence to help satellite operators avoid collisions. Credit: Okapi:Orbits

SAN FRANCISCO – Since Germany startup Okapi:Orbits released its first space traffic management product for satellite operators, the response has been overwhelming, Kristina Nikolaus, Okapi:Orbits co-founder and managing director told SpaceNews.

In late October, Okapi began offering publicly an automated collision avoidance service that relies on artificial intelligence to help satellite operators evaluate the risk of collisions and maneuver to avoid other satellites and debris.

As popular orbits become increasingly crowded with satellites and space debris, satellite operators are turning increasingly to automated collision avoidance products and services offered by established companies and startups.

Okapi invites operators to provide information on their satellites and to select from a menu of services through its website or an API. For example, a satellite operator could hire Okapi to autonomously monitor conjunction data messages, predict the risk of a collision for each warning received and suggest maneuvers to avoid other satellites.

“The space debris problem is going to affect all satellites operators in the future,” Nikolaus said. “Now is the time to act to keep the orbits safe.”

In addition, Okapi’s service is designed to save satellite operators money by reducing the number of maneuvers they conduct.

“We have predictive AI, so we can tell operators whether they have to move or not,” Nikolaus said. “That saves the lifetime of the satellites, so they can use it longer as they don’t have to perform that many maneuvers. With the new space era, the satellite is a business asset that they can use longer.”

When satellite operators need to maneuver out of harm’s way, Okapi’s algorithm recommends maneuvers that move the satellite as quickly as possible toward their target orbital locations, Nikolaus said.

Prior to releasing its automated collision avoidance product, Okapi conducted extensive testing with partners and clients in a prerelease phase.

“We had over 80 preregistrations,” Nikolaus said. “A lot of potential clients are now testing officially the software.”

Okapi closed a business angel investment round in September. The company plans to solicit seed funding in 2021. For now, the angel investment combined with revenue from product sales is enough to sustain the business through its proof-of-concept phase, Nikolaus said.

“We will start fundraising again soon to scale and roll out new software,” Nikolaus said.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...