Ixion Initiative Team Signs Contract With NASA to Study the Conversion of Rocket Upper Stages Into Space Habitats

by | Jun 23, 2017

PALO ALTO, Calif. ” The Ixion Initiative Team, which includes NanoRacks, LLC (NanoRacks), Space Systems Loral (SSL), and United Launch Alliance (ULA), has signed and executed a previously announced agreement with NASA to conduct a comprehensive feasibility study evaluating the conversion of rocket upper stages into commercial habitats. Funded by the second phase of the Agency's Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP-2) Broad Agency Announcement, this innovative approach offers a pathway that is substantially more robust and affordable than fabricating modules independently on the ground and subsequently launching them into orbit.

SSL, a global leader in satellite manufacturing and space-based robotics, will bring a wealth of expertise to the Ixion Initiative Team. Within the feasibility study, SSL will explore leveraging its robotic systems to convert the rocket upper stage into a habitat, examine the use of SSL solar electric propulsion capability, and explore utilizing a commercial habitat for orbital satellite assembly and manufacturing.

Repurposing rocket upper stages for use as habitats could dramatically lower the costs associated with human space exploration, by nearly eliminating both fabrication and launch costs through reuse. After being proven in LEO, the Ixion Initiative Team's approach can be used to create deep space habitats from any future rocket upper stages, including the Space Launch System's upper stage, which would provide a substantial amount of volume and capability for human exploration missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

SSL is always looking for new ways to innovate and leverage commercial capabilities, which is why we're excited to be a part of the Ixion Initiative Team and NASA's NextSTEP-2 program, said Richard White, president of SSL Government Systems. “Now that we are under contract, we can begin exploring the benefits of reusability and how our robotics and propulsion systems can contribute to next-generation space habitats.” 

About SSL
Space Systems Loral (SSL) based in Palo Alto, California is a leading provider of advanced spacecraft systems, with broad expertise to support commercial and government satellite operators and innovative space missions. The company designs and manufactures spacecraft for services such as direct-to-home television, video content distribution, broadband internet, mobile communications, in-orbit servicing, space exploration, and Earth observation. As a Silicon Valley innovator for 60 years, SSL’s advanced product line also includes state-of-the-art small satellites, and sophisticated robotics and autonomous solutions for remote operations. For more information, visit www.sslmda.com.

About NanoRacks

NanoRacks LLC was formed in 2009 to provide commercial hardware and services for the U.S. National Laboratory onboard the International Space Station via a Space Act Agreement with NASA. NanoRacks' main office is in Houston, Texas, right alongside the NASA Johnson Space Center. The Business Development office is in Washington, DC. Additional offices are located in Silicon Valley, California and Leiden, Netherlands.

In July 2015, NanoRacks signed a teaming agreement with Blue Origin to offer integration services on their New Shepard space vehicle. NanoRacks, along with partners at ULA and Space Systems Loral was also recently selected by NASA to participate in the NextSTEPs Phase II program to develop commercial habitation systems in low-Earth orbit and beyond.

As of May 2017, over 530 payloads have been launched to the International Space Station via NanoRacks services, and our customer base includes the European Space Agency (ESA) the German Space Agency (DLR,) the American space agency (NASA,) US Government Agencies, Spire, Planet Labs,  Space Florida, NCESSE, Virgin Galactic, pharmaceutical drug companies, and organizations in Vietnam, UK, Romania and Israel.

For continued updates, follow @NanoRacks on Twitter.

For media inquiries, please contact Abby Dickes at [email protected].

Forward-Looking Statements

This news release contains forward-looking statements and information, which reflect the current view of Space Systems Loral (SSL) with respect to future events and financial performance.  When used in this news release, the words believes, expects, plans, may, will, would, could, should, anticipates, estimates, project, intend or outlook or other variations of these words or other similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements and information. Actual results may differ materially from the expectations expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements as a result of known and unknown risks and uncertainties. Known risks and uncertainties include but are not limited to: risks associated with operating satellites and providing satellite services, including satellite construction or launch delays, launch failures, in-orbit failures or impaired satellite performance; risks associated with satellite manufacturing, including competition, cyclicality of SSL's end-user markets, contractual risks, creditworthiness of customers, performance of suppliers and management of SSL's factory and personnel; risk associated with financial factors such as volatility in exchange rates, increases in interest rates, restrictions on access to capital, and swings in global financial markets; risks associated with domestic and foreign government regulation, including export controls and economic sanctions; and other risks, including litigation. The foregoing list of important factors is not exhaustive. The information contained in this news release reflects SSL's beliefs, assumptions, intentions, plans and expectations as of the date of this news release. Except as required by law, SSL disclaims any obligation or undertaking to update or revise the information herein.


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