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Space Machines’ ‘in-orbit taxi’ finally blasts off

Space Machines Company’s first “roadside assistance in space” satellite has finally launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

Optimus blasted off at 9:05am (AEDT) on Tuesday aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, and the business said it would now prioritise reaching its slot in orbit to begin testing.

The spacecraft is designed to offer a taxi-style service in orbit, physically moving other satellites to new positions.

It’s hoped the technology could both reduce space debris and extend the life of other spacecraft which would otherwise be forced to shut down.


Rajat Kulshrestha, Space Machines Company (SMC) chief executive officer, believes Optimus opens up “new possibilities” for how satellites are launched and operated.

“We believe it will transform the economics of space infrastructure,” he said.

“As the foundational asset in our architecture of servicing vehicles designed to repair, refuel, upgrade and relocate other satellites, Optimus enables us to provide services to extend satellite lifetimes, reduce space debris and sustainably scale space activities.”

The spacecraft is significantly a unique collaboration for the Australian space industry that has involved Advanced Navigation, CSIRO, HEO, and UTS.


At 270 kilograms, Optimus is also the largest Australian-designed and built satellite ever to go into space.

SMC added it would now target growing a fleet of “orbital servicing vehicles” like Optimus and was exploring working with local and international partners.

Kulshrestha previously appeared on the Space Connect Podcast to explain how his technology would work. You can listen to the episode above.

It comes months after Space Connect reported how Space Machines Company would collaborate with US company Orbit Fab which specialises in refuelling spacecraft in orbit.

The pair will work together this year with QR code-like docking markers attached to both firms’ spacecraft so they can conduct “rendezvous and proximity operations manoeuvres” to test their respective innovations.

“This collaboration represents a significant milestone in the advancement of in-space servicing technologies,” said Kulshrestha.

“It is the first purely commercial partnership of its kind and will serve as a pioneering example of in-space validation of these groundbreaking technologies.”

SMC said the collaboration would also improve space sustainability by reducing debris and creating an “on-orbit circular economy”.

“By partnering to undertake a suite of safe, secure, and sustainable proximity operations, Orbit Fab and Space Machines Company will play a pivotal role in defining this developing commercial technology to unlock on-orbit refuelling, servicing, repair, and de-orbit innovation for the global space sector,” it said.

Adam Thorn

Adam Thorn

Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.

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