Altius Proposes System to Launch CubeSats From Cygnus Supply Ships

Satellite deployed from Cygnus cargo module using Hatchbasket. (Credit: Altius Space Machines)
Satellite deployed from Cygnus cargo module using Hatchbasket. (Credit: Altius Space Machines)

Space News reports on an innovative proposal by Altius Space Machines to use Cygnus cargo ships to launch CubeSats into higher orbits:

Altius engineers have designed the new payload carrier, called HatchBasket, to fit in the hatchway of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s enhanced Cygnus cargo module and take advantage of fuel remaining in the unmanned cargo ship to boost the capsule to an altitude of approximately 500 kilometers where HatchBasket would expel its complement of satellites.

Satellites launched at that altitude are likely to remain in orbit without onboard propulsion systems for two to three years. In comparison, the anticipated lifespan for cubesats released from the space station, which travels at an altitude of roughly 350 kilometers from Earth, is six to 12 months, said Jonathan Goff, president and chief executive of Louisville, Colorado-based Altius.

It is not yet clear how many satellites HatchBasket would carry, because Altius and NASA officials are continuing to discuss how large the payload carrier should be, said William Bolton, vice president for marketing and sales.

A preliminary version of HatchBasket exhibited at Utah State University’s annual Small Satellite conference in August was large enough to hold 40 three-unit cubesats, which are roughly the size of a loaf of bread and weigh 3 to 4 kilograms, as well as two much larger satellites around 180 kilograms. Now it appears more likely that HatchBasket will hold one or two 50-kilogram satellites in addition to a number of cubesats that has not yet been determined, Bolton said.

Altius is working on the project with NanoRacks, which launches CubeSats from the Japanese Kibo module.

An In-depth Look at Recent Altius Space Machines Contract Awards

Altius_logo_newBy Jonathan Goff
President and CEO
Altius Space Machines

Part 1 of 2

It has been a while since our last blog post, and those of you have been following the news over the last month may have noticed that Altius has recently been awarded or selected for negotiation on a few significant NASA technology development contracts. These four contracts are:

  • ISS Launched Cubesat Demonstration of Variable-Drag Magnetoshell Aerocapture – an SBIR Select Phase I that MSNW LLC of Redmond, WA is priming with Altius as subcontractor
  • Multi-purpose Interplanetary Deployable Aerocapture System (MIDAS) – an SBIR Select Phase I that Altius is priming with MSNW LLC as subcontractor
  • Kraken Asteroid Boulder Retrieval System – an Asteroid Redirect Mission BAA Phase I that Altius is priming with support from Boston-based Empire Robotics, Dr. Brad Blair of NewSpace Analytics, and the Materials Technology Lab at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, CO
  • Multipurpose SEP Module for ARM and Beyond – an Asteroid Redirect Mission BAA Phase I study where Altius will be supporting an industry team led by ExoTerra Resources of Littleton, CO.


Altius, MDA and SS/L Among Winners in DARPA ZombieSat Project

Phoenix satellite concept. (Credit: DARPA)

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Jonathan Goff’s Altius Space Machines is among five companies and a NASA field center sharing about $36 million in contract awards in DARPA’s Phoenix Technologies program, which aims to harvest components from dead satellites for reuse.

Space News reports that Goff’s Louisville, Colo., company will build an extendable boom for the Phoenix spacecraft. DARPA would not reveal how much Altius will receive under the contract.

Other winners of Phoenix contracts include: Space Systems/Loral; Intelsat; MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates; NovaWurks; and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.