Product/Service - Worker Bee, Sutter Space Telescope
- In-Space Transportation
- Space Tug
Space Situational Awareness (SSA)
Resources - Asteroid Mining
Propellant Refuel Station
ISRU (In Situ Resource Utilization)
- Refilling Station
- First launch
- Not announced
New kind of aerospace company dedicate to building the “transcontinental railroad of space”.
NASA Selected NIAC Phase III for Mini Bee Prototype to Demonstrate the Apis Mission Architecture and Optical Mining. Technology This flight demonstration mission concept proposes a method of asteroid resource harvesting called optical mining. Optical mining is an approach for excavating an asteroid and extracting water and other volatiles into an inflatable bag. Called Mini Bee, the mission concept aims to prove optical mining, in conjunction with other innovative spacecraft systems, can be used to obtain propellant in space. The proposed architecture includes resource prospecting, extraction and delivery.
TransAstronautica, a startup founded by Joel Sercel, the former Momentus chief technology officer, is raising money for a competing space logistics venture. TransAstra’s business plan starts with transportation for satellites in orbit and extends to refueling rockets with resources harvested from asteroids.
ReOrbit and TransAstra sign spacecraft development and logistics contracts. Under these contracts, TransAstra will provide mission definition and engineering analysis for TransAstra's Worker Bee orbital transfer vehicles to deliver ReOrbit's customer satellites to Low Earth Orbit, Medium Earth Orbit, Geostationary Orbit, and Cis-Lunar orbits.
In December 2022, announced that it has received two grants—a NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award and a DoD Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) award—to advance its space debris removal and awareness tech. Right now, TransAstra is focused on space sustainability. It’s building a space tug called Worker Bee that can transfer satellites between orbits using a water-fueled and sun-powered propulsion system, and it operates a proprietary telescope software, called Sutter, that allows telescopes to better identify near-Earth asteroids. Ultimately, though, the Los Angeles-based startup hopes to turn its focus toward sustainable Moon and asteroid mining.
- Trash capture: The first of the two grants was awarded through NASA’s Ignite program, which provides $150k grants at Phase I to help prepare technology for commercialization. The funding will go towards developing an inflatable orbital debris capture system called the Mini Bee Capture Bag. The capture bag will be designed to capture debris of any shape. The prototype will be designed to capture debris around 10cm in diameter, but the company says it will be able to scale to capture much larger objects.
- Eyes in space: TransAstra has partnered with ground telescopes to implement its Sutter telescope technology, which uses Optimized Matched Filter Tracking (OMFT) to help telescopes identify very faint, fast-moving objects in the sky. The company will use the DoD grant to tweak this program to work from space. Ideally, in the end, the US Space Force will be able to add Sutter technology to its spacecraft to cheaply and easily augment its SSA capabilities in orbit.
TransAstra’s breakthrough Sutter space telescope technology is 300,000 times more effective at finding dark moving objects in space than conventional telescopes. This will be a game changer for finding debris and traffic in Earth orbit and for finding the thousands of Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) that will usher in a gold rush to space.
Propelled by TransAstra's Omnivore™ solar thermal rocket engines, Worker Bee can position a constellation of satellites, each to its orbital slot, ten times faster at one-fifth the price of electric or microwave propelled vehicles. This reduces the time it takes to deploy a constellation from months to days, saving our customers millions of dollars. Worker Bee supports many other space logistics businesses, including resource harvesting from asteroids and the Moon, removing debris from orbit, and hosting customer payload.
- CAPACITY - Up to 200kg of payload mass
- DESIGNED FOR - Low Earth Orbit
- PROPELLED BY OMNIVORE 1
- CAPACITY - Up to 2,000kg of payload mass
- DESIGNED FOR - LEO, MEO, GEO and lunar orbit
- PROPELLED BY OMNIVORE 2
- CAPACITY - Up to 30,000 kg of payload mass
- DESIGNED FOR - Deep space logistics and massive satellite delivery
- PROPELLED BY OMNIVORE 3
- The ultimate in-space transportation system
- Third generation proprietary materials
- Near nuclear rocket level performance at 1% the cost
- Delta-V beyond 10 km/s with 10 ton payloads
- Optimized for H2O, N2H4 NH3 or LH2 propellent
- Launch with 14 tons of LH2, refill tanks with 100 tons of asteroid water
- Delivered two massive GEOs on a single launch in days
GEO AND CISLUNAR SATELLITE DEPLOYMENT
Worker Bee is the fastest and most affordable way to deliver satellites to GEO. While electric propulsion systems can take several months from GTO to GEO, Worker Bee can do it in a few weeks at a fraction of the cost. Electric propulsion can take a year to get a satellite to lunar orbit, while Worker Bee can do it in a few months.
Worker Bees are full-service, purpose-built spacecraft that can operate across LEO, MEO, GEO, cislunar orbits and in deep space, making them extremely adaptable throughout the entire duration of an operation. TransAstra handles all aspects of the spacecraft design, manufacture, launch, and operation of the mission, allowing industrial and government customers to focus on their missions of operating the payload rather than the nuts and bolts of space logistics.
Once flown in space, our technology will track objects as small as 5 cm throughout cislunar space. It will also be 300,000 times more cost effective than legacy telescope systems. In its first six months of in-space operations, our Sutter Ultra system will find 300 times more asteroids than humans have ever located.
Using our Sutter technology, TransAstra can provide unparalleled space domain awareness data and find enough near Earth asteroids to trigger a gold rush to the asteroids. We can also locate and track space debris more effectively than any other system. Once located, our Mini-Bee uses our patented technologies to capture and process Low Earth Orbit debris.
OMNIVORE SOLAR THERMAL ROCKET
Omnivore is based on a variety of patented, patents pending, and trade secret technologies. Propellant, typically water vapor, is injected into a proprietary solar absorber system located at the focus of a high performance solar concentrator. The solar absorber superheats the gas at high pressure. As with any rocket engine with only one outlet in its flow path, the gas exits at the nozzle, generating thrust to propel the spacecraft.
Without the expensive and heavy solar panels needed by electric propulsion, and with the ability to use nearly any volatile fluid as propellant, Omnivore provides a 10X higher thrust-to-weight ratio than electric propulsion. Without the danger and risk of chemical rocket systems or the cost and low thrust of electric systems, Omnivore provides the best possible combination of fast, clean and affordable travel through space.
OPTICAL MINING™ FOR SPACE RESOURCE HARVESTING
The Moon and near-Earth asteroids with diameters less than 100m hold the potential for trillions of dollars of harvestable resources. Our patented technology for mining in-space resources is the key that will unlock the resources needed to provide the foundation for interplanetary travel, logistics and industry for decades to come.
Optical Mining™ uses concentrated sunlight to excavate and extract propellant feedstocks from volatile-rich asteroids, moons, and planetary surfaces. Optical Mining will enable TransAstra to harvest thousands of tons of water and other materials for rocket propulsion in space within a decade, an opportunity for massive cost reduction for deep space human exploration and space industrialization.
As of early 2023, the focus is on space tugs.
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News, Research, Projects and Patents
|Systems and methods are disclosed for mining lunar and Martian polar permafrost to extract gas propellants.||Patent||2020-07-30|
|Fueling Up in Space||Podcast||2022-09-01|
|Space mining startups see a rich future on asteroids and the moon||Article||2023-01-07|