Italian space logistics startup D-Orbit launched a US branch on Wednesday that will transform the startup’s flight-proven orbital transfer vehicle into a satellite bus to better court American government customers.

Meet D-Orbit USA: Mike Cassidy, who previously co-founded Apollo Fusion, is leading the seven-person team based in Boulder, CO. The company’s goal is to take a “LEGO approach” to a satellite bus, where metrics from solar power requirements to batteries to mass can be scaled up or down for various payloads—or if the payload changes during the course of a mission. 

But rather than start from scratch, D-Orbit US will use D-Orbit’s ION orbital transfer vehicle as a starting point to create a standalone bus.

Cassidy laid out two core groups of potential customers:

The Space Development Agency, which is launching small sat constellations to beef up missile defense and secure comms capabilities

Communications companies trying to compete on everything from space internet to direct-to-cell tech

Win-win-win: One big draw of partnering with D-Orbit was that the Italian company already had 13 successful flights under its belt, giving the US operation instant flight heritage, Cassidy told Payload. 

The Italian parent company, however, is also getting something out of the partnership—an expanded US presence and the ability to more easily work with government agencies. 

Dollars and cents: The US team has licensed D-Orbit’s intellectual property, and any profits from the American office will be split with the group in Italy, Cassidy said. 

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