WASHINGTON — Scout Space, a startup developing technologies for in-space services, won two U.S. Space Force contracts in support of the debris-cleanup project known as Orbital Prime.

Each contract is worth $250,000. The company announced Aug. 24 its partners for the project are Stanford University’s Space Rendezvous Laboratory (SLAB) and the Florida Institute of Technology’s Orion Lab

Orbital Prime is run by SpaceWERX, the technology arm of the U.S. Space Force. In May it selected 125 industry teams for the initial phase of the program, intended to promote commercial development of technologies for orbital debris cleanup and other space services.

The awards are known as Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) contracts which require small businesses to team with academic or nonprofit institutions. 

The two research contracts won by Scout are for on-orbit navigation, safe approaching and tracking technologies.

“Orbital Prime is providing us, a private company, with a very unique opportunity to partner with highly respected academic institutions to kickstart advances in technologies for on-orbit approach and on-orbit acquisition,” said Eric Ingram, Scout’s founder and CEO.

Simone D’Amico, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Stanford University and founding director of SLAB, called the project “a great opportunity for an academic laboratory to deploy new machine learning algorithms for autonomous spacecraft navigation in actual space missions led by industry.”

The SLAB and Orion labs provide “unique and exciting capabilities for technology transfer,” said Scout’s co-founder and chief technology officer Sergio Gallucci.

The teams that won phase-one contracts will have an opportunity later this year to compete for second-phase awards of up to $1.5 million for each of the contracts to continue development and prototyping.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...