October 24, 2019 – Small satellite manufacturer and mission services provider Blue Canyon Technologies (BCT) today announced it has been selected for a $4.9 million contract award from NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate to develop a groundbreaking technology that allows BCT’s spacecraft buses to perform autonomous navigation on-board, without any additional hardware.
The news came as part of NASA’s recent announcement of more than $40 million in contracts to 14 companies as part of its “Tipping Point” solicitation, an effort to develop technologies that support the agency’s Moon to Mars exploration approach.
BCT has been selected for the second highest contract award, to develop and conduct an in-space demonstration of a new autonomous navigation solution. BCT buses equipped with this solution will be capable of navigating through space with greatly reduced need to “talk” to Earth in order to collect critical data and intelligence.
“By providing a turnkey spacecraft bus with integrated autonomous navigation capability, we are opening the door for both the government and commercial industries to deploy CubeSat and SmallSat technologies for cislunar and interplanetary missions,” said George Stafford, founder and CEO of Blue Canyon Technologies. “This contract allows us to develop a technology and associated price point that would not be available otherwise.”
The primary ground infrastructure for communicating with deep space missions is NASA’s Deep Space Network, a network of large radio antennas. These antennas, which provide a critical connection between Earth and conventional spacecraft, are comprised of three facilities worldwide. BCT’s autonomous navigation capability could supplement the antennas in order to conduct critical mission operations.
BCT’s small spacecraft, which are quicker to build and launch and far less expensive than conventional satellites, could increase the number, scale and types of space missions, including in-situ operations which require autonomous navigation capability onboard a spacecraft.
BCT is currently building more than 60 spacecraft for government, commercial and academic missions. The company has doubled in size over the past 12 months and plans to open its new 80,000-square-foot headquarters and production facility in 2020.