The Defense Department is looking for more maneuverability in orbit and tapped none otter than Starfish Space to take on the task.  

Space Systems Command awarded the startup a $37.5M strategic funding increase contract on Monday to build an Otter spacecraft for DoD, giving the national security space enterprise the ability to conduct autonomous rendezvous and proximity, as well as docking operations.

Starfish DoD: There are already many nat sec use cases for the Otter spacecraft, according to a DoD release, including:

Refueling spacecraft

Maneuvering a satellite between orbits

Discarding an old asset to avoid leaving behind debris

DoD’s view: The contract is part of the department’s broader Assured Access to Space effort, which prioritizes responsiveness, resilience, and flexibility for national security assets in orbit. In its fiscal 2025 budget request, the Space Force asked for $20M for “servicing, mobility, and logistics.”

The Defense Department has already invested in refueling technology, including awarding a $25.5M contract to Astroscale for an on-orbit refueling vehicle, partnering with Orbit Fab on an orbital demo, and certifying a Northrop Grumman fuel port as a “preferred standard.” 

Some context: Starfish launched its Otter Pup docking demo mission last year, which failed to conduct its intended task of docking with an Orbiter spacecraft operated by Vast-owned launcher. An anomaly with its ride to orbit caused the spacecraft  to spin wildly after deployment. 

Engineers were eventually able to control the spacecraft, which pivoted to a rendezvous operation instead, successfully meeting up with D-Orbit’s ION satellite in orbit last month. 

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