WASHINGTON — The startup Scout Space in partnership with the Stanford University Space Rendezvous Laboratory won a $1.5 million contract to help the U.S. Space Force to characterize spacecraft and debris objects, the company said Aug. 10.

Scout, founded in 2019, is developing technologies for on-orbit navigation and tracking. It won a Phase 2 Small Business Technology Transfer contract that requires companies to team up with academic or nonprofit institutions. 

The Space Force’s technology arm, SpaceWERX, awarded the contract as part of a project known as Orbital Prime that seeks to develop technologies for debris removal and in-space services.

Scout and the Stanford University Space Rendezvous Laboratory, known as SLAB, won a Phase 1 STTR contract in August 2022.

SLAB is part of the department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University.

Refining data on space objects

“The characterization of location, motion, and other data of objects in space for space domain awareness requires well-defined processes for processing sensor data,” said Scout’s co-founder and chief technology officer Sergio Gallucci.

SLAB founder and director Simone D’Amico said the SpaceWERX project will help advance technologies for in-space servicing, assembly, and manufacturing. 

“The US Space Force and Scout are giving us a unique opportunity to reach flight readiness with spacecraft navigation technologies that would have normally taken several years to accomplish,” said D’Amico.

SLAB is working to “deploy new machine learning algorithms for autonomous spacecraft navigation in actual space missions led by industry,” he added.

For the Orbital Prime project, SpaceWERX last year 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.

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...