Sun. Nov 28th, 2021

Outpost, a firm focused on retrieving satellites and cargo from orbit, was founded by two co-founders of Made In Space and a paragliding specialist. “Today, there are many ways to transport satellites and payloads into space, but very few means to get them back to Earth,” Outpost co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Jason Dunn told SpaceNews. Dunn, who was the co-founder of Made In Space and worked as its director before it was acquired by Redwire in 2020, said Outpost aims to start fixing that problem with “low-mass, high-efficiency” Earth return capabilities for satellites.

Rockets are becoming increasingly reusable as the space sector speeds toward the much-debated trillion-dollar mark, owing to the development of satellite constellations as well as services. Satellites, on the other hand, frequently burn up when they reenter the atmosphere.

“We believe that the spacecraft of the future, like a rocket today, will be reusable,” Dunn said. “Because the satellite can perform multiple missions over its lifetime, we’re providing a far lower-cost approach to do space missions.” After we demonstrate how to accomplish that, it will be self-evident that spacecraft should be reusable.”

Dunn co-founded Outpost with Aaron Kemmer, co-founder and previous chairman of Made In Space, and Michael Vergalla, who is a veteran of Moon Express, SpinLaunch, and Airbus A3, the aerospace giant’s Silicon Valley research hub. Vergalla also founded the Free Flight Research Lab, a non-profit dedicated to paragliding for science, technology, and conservation.

Outpost created a two-stage technique to enable satellites to reenter Earth’s atmosphere as well as land on a pad, partly based on Vergalla’s paraglider expertise. According to Dunn, the idea opens the door to “complete recovery of payloads as well as materials from orbit.”

Satellites weighing around 200 kilos will be returned by Outpost. Outpost has developed “lightweight and compact” technologies that “deploy using pneumatic inflation,” in contrast to space capsule return missions that rely on ballistic atmospheric entry, hard ablative heat shields, and parachutes deploying at low altitudes, according to Vergalla. Executives from Outpost are meeting with potential customers who are working on space hardware, sensors, and payloads.

“We’ve talked to a lot of people who are working on something fresh and creative that has to be tested in space,” Dunn said. “As you may be aware, in this profession, there is a Catch-22: you can’t fly something on the space mission unless it has already flown. As a result, we can provide flight legacy on new systems.” Outpost will “bring payload back so that researcher or engineer may evaluate it” once it has provided spaceflight legacy for a component, material, or sensor, according to Dunn.

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