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Turion Space Won Another NASA Contract and Successfully Launched its 1st Satellite

June 15, 2023, Repost from Turion Space and Space News - California based space startup Turion Space today announced that it has won another NASA contract for space debris removal technology development and successfully launched its first commercial satellite DROID.001 for Space Domain Awareness Data (SDA) services. The DROID.001 launch was accomplished through SpaceX Falcon 9 Transporter-8 Mission.

Turion Space, a seed stage startup (YC S21), has designed, built, tested, launched, and now operates its first fully capable commercial satellite DROID.001 with less than $10M venture capital raised, which is unprecedented in the space industry. The company has won multiple NASA contracts in the past two years to develop technology solutions for space debris removal. Last year, the company secured U.S. regulatory approval to sell space situational awareness (SSA) services from its satellites.

DROID.001’s primary mission is to test imagery capabilities for an SSA business as a stepping stone toward more direct in-orbit services, according to Turion Space CEO Ryan Westerdahl, who previously worked in SpaceX engine team for over 8 years. After deploying three to four more SSA-focused Droids by around mid-2024, the startup plans to test a vision system for autonomous rendezvous operations with one of its spacecraft already in low Earth orbit.

“By 2025, we want to do our first docking and de-orbit demonstration,” Westerdahl said.

Westerdahl ultimately envisions a constellation of Droids that can be tasked to provide services as needed. When that mission is over, they would return to their “home orbit” to track objects in space until they are called upon again.

“We’re an early-stage startup and we don’t necessarily know how big our constellation is going to be yet,” Westerdahl said. “All I can tell you with certainty for now is we’re going to build as many as we can and as fast as we can." Turion Space has raised enough venture capital to cover its first two satellites. The startup plans to deploy its second satellite in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Turion Space has secured four contracts worth a combined $1 million from the U.S. Space Force’s Orbital Prime program since 2021, which will support the development of its in-orbit logistics capabilities. Orbital Prime launched in 2021 to focus on emerging in-orbit servicing, assembly and manufacturing capabilities.

Westerdahl said the startup is using funds raised from government contracts for research and development on the logistics side of its business, as well as finding ways to expand its SSA capabilities. Capital raised from venture capital investors is supporting an SSA-focused commercial business, which would use early satellites that are not going to be focused on space logistics.

“Although we think in-space logistics is a market primed for takeoff, we are prioritizing moving fast and deploying revenue generating assets early to maximize learning and market traction,” Westerdahl said.

Starting in summer 2023, the company plans to offer inspection services from a distance during flyby encounters. As part of HEO-Robotics network of satellites, gain valuable insights for commercial satellite or defense applications.

With its successful 1st satellite launch and continued funding support from NASA and US Space Force, Turion Space is becoming a rising star among the early-stage companies developing solutions for sustainability in space, starting from SSA data services and space debris removal.


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