WASHINGTON — A business accelerator funded by the U.S. Space Force announced it has selected 13 startups and 11 university teams to compete for $100,000 awards.

The accelerator known as “Hyperspace Challenge” is run by the Air Force Research Laboratory and CNM Ingenuity. 

The finalists were selected based on concepts they pitched in several space technology areas:

Rapid initial orbit determination of newly detected debris objects. The Space Force wants to augment existing optical sensors with other types of data to speed up the orbit determination process.

Smart sensing and machine learning for ground based remote sensing of space objects. As space becomes more congested, the traditional systems for tracking objects are insufficient. The Space Force wants to automate sensor tasking and data processing.

Leveraging microgravity for military and commercial applications. The private sector is exploring uses of the microgravity environment in near-Earth orbit for commercial applications. The Space Force is interested in how this science could be applied for national security projects.

Rocket cargo technology for agile global logistics. The U.S. Air Force is determining the viability and utility of using large commercial rockets for delivery of critical cargo and for transportation. The Space Force is looking for technologies to air drop cargo from the rocket after re-entry in order to service locations where a rocket or aircraft cannot possibly land, wants to develop intermodal cargo containers and a rocket cargo bay for rapid loading and unloading.

Quantum sensing for location and electro-magnetic field detection. Quantum sensors can provide location information in environments where GPS signals are not available and can detect electric and magnetic fields. The Space Force wants to apply these capabilities for military use. 

On-orbit servicing, assembly and manufacturing. The Space Force wants to explore the use of autonomous robotic spacecraft fo on-orbit inspection, repair, functional upgrades, refueling and de-orbiting.

The Hyperspace Challenge was created in 2018 and runs annual competitions. 

Startups and universities this year will present their concepts in a virtual event Dec. 2. “Finalists with the most viable technologies will be awarded a total of $100,000 in prize money to expedite follow-on activities related to establishing government acquisition or contracting opportunities,” said Gabe Mounce, deputy director of SpaceWERX. 

Startups and universities selected: 

  • Astroport Space Technologies, Inc. (San Antonio, Texas)
  • Atomionics (Albuquerque, N.M.)
  • G-SPACE, INC (Sunnyvale, Calif.)
  • Knight Aerospace (San Antonio, Texas)
  • Lunar Outpost (Evergreen, Colo.)
  • Neutron Star Systems USA Corp. (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
  • O Analytics Incorporated (White Hall, W.Va.)
  • Obruta Space Solutions (Ottawa, ON, Canada)
  • Quaternion Consulting Inc (Herndon, Va.)
  • SCOUT (Alexandria, Va.)
  • TurnRock Labs (Seattle, Wash.)
  • Varda Space Industries, Inc. (Torrance, Calif.)
  • Vegamx (New York, N.Y.)
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Daytona Beach, Fla.)
  • New Mexico Tech (Socorro, N.M.)
  • SFluor Inc. (Albany, N.Y.)
  • Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, N.J.)
  • SUNY Polytechnic Institute (Albany, N.Y.)
  • Texas State University (San Marcos, Texas)
  • University of Texas at El Paso (El Paso, Texas)
  • The Pennsylvania State University (Freeport, Penn.)
  • University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, Ohio)
  • University of Colorado Colorado Springs (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
  • Utah State University (Logan, Utah)

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...