Space Force Selects GURU, Georgia Tech, UCF to Accelerate On-Orbit Operations

MSBAI, an Air Force Techstars 2020 company, and partners Georgia Tech and the University of Central Florida, have been awarded a SpaceWERX Orbital Prime Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase 1 contract to adapt the GURU ‘Universal Interface for Simulation’ to revolutionize In-space Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing (ISAM) missions.

SpaceWERX, the space-focused arm of the Air Force technology incubator AFWERX, launched the Orbital Prime program in November 2021 to explore a broad range of innovative defense-related dual-purpose technologies for on-orbit approach, on-orbit object acquisition and on-orbit object servicing. Example applications include repair and refueling of existing satellites, removing and recycling orbital debris, and manufacturing products in space. Rather than create a program of record to conduct ISAM missions, SpaceWERX director Lt. Col. Walter McMillan said he hopes to “commercialize an entire mission area,” growing the Space Force’s industrial base, and fostering collaboration between small businesses and university researchers.

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Gabe Mounce, deputy director of SpaceWERX, said Orbital Prime is intended to help “prime the pump, if you will, on a nascent market in national security space and signal to the industry what direction the government wants to go in.”

The government as a market driver in the ISAM sector is “something that’s been talked about for a long time in this industry,” said Meagan Crawford, co-founder and managing partner of the venture capital firm SpaceFund. With Orbital Prime, the Space Force is “finally planting a flag” and putting in real money.

GURU enables you to set up simulations in minutes, not hours so that you can get the answers you need fast enough to act on. In partnership with Professors Karen Feigh of Georgia Tech and Tarek Elgohary of the University of Central Florida, MSBAI will adapt GURU to hyper-enable operators, mission teams, and analysts to radically scale up their use of sophisticated trajectory design and mission planning software like NASA’s General Mission Analysis Tool (GMAT) — which presently require a significant amount of time, labor, and expertise to use.

Prof. Feigh is a cognitive engineer with expertise in space situational awareness. She will focus on leveraging GURU to bring high-level decision-making down to actionable plans. Prof. Elgohary has expertise in astrodynamics, optimal control, robotics, and space situational awareness. He will research highly efficient and adaptable trajectory design and mission planning algorithms. The team will explore a novel optimal trajectory design approach that integrates constrained dynamics and optimal control theory with a data-driven scheme.

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