Technologies of Altius

We provide cost effective, innovative and timely solutions to all of your satellite servicing needs.

Satellite Servicing and Orbital Logistics

Altius is developing its Bulldog family of microsatellite-scale servicing tugs. Leveraging proprietary Altius capture robotics and state of the art small satellite solar electric propulsion systems from our partners, these vehicles will provide a wide range of affordable services to satellite and space facility operators.

  • Satellite Servicing Bulldog can provide satellite operators with affordable inspection, refueling, modular repair and upgrade services, as well as end-of-life (EOL) disposal services, and active debris removal.
  • Space Logistics Bulldog also enables safe and affordable delivery of cargo, modularly-swappable hosted payloads, and construction materials to space facilities, hosted payload platforms, and in-space assembly/manufacturing sites.

In addition to Bulldog, Altius is also developing patented Direct to Facility rendezvous and robotic capture technologies to allow rocket upper stages to rendezvous directly with facilities or propellant depots, for cargo delivery or refueling of the rocket stages to enable them to deliver payloads throughout the solar system.

US Provisional Patent filed May 2019

ElectroPermanent Magnets

Altius' patent-pending ElectroPermanent Magnets (EPMs) are solid-state, electronically switchable permanent magnets, with very high grip force (125-625kPa), no moving parts, no power required to maintain grip, and only a small amount of energy (<10J) required to change states. The EPMs have an array of hard magnetic poles, a set of electromagnetic windings, and pulse driver electronics that magnetizes or demagnetizes the pole piece by flowing a short high-power electrical pulse through the windings. EPMs are a key enabling technology for Altius's capture robotics and satellite servicing interfaces, and also have applications in a wide range of terrestrial markets including industrial automation, fluid control, and autonomous systems.

Cooperative Servicing Interfaces

Altius is developing a suite of components that can be added to a client satellite before launch to make it easier to grapple, refuel, and modularly repair or upgrade.

  • DogTags™ These low-cost, lightweight (<250g) grappling interfaces enable a satellite to be grappled via a range of methods including magnetic, electrostatic or gecko adhesive, or mechanical pinch grasping, and include a durable optical fiducial marker to simplify relative navigation during servicing operations. Lowers the cost of servicing and backup end-of-life disposal operations.
  • MagTags™ These small, low-profile EPM-based magnetic latching connectors that enable various types of modules to be attached to a target spacecraft to enable repairs, fluid transfer, modular upgrades, or ground or in-space installation of hosted payloads. Small enough to fit on a cubesat, but powerful enough to be useful for a multi-ton client spacecraft.
  • ComboTags™ This cubesat-scale 10x20cm interface panel combines a small DogTag grappling interface with a MagTag modular servicing interface and protective cover. A great entry-level way to make even cubesats servicable.
  • CryoCouplers Altius is developing a family of cryogenic propellant couplings, which can serve as a ground T-0 quick disconnect umbilical, while also being easy to robotically reconnect on-orbit, allowing it to become the standard interface for future in-space propellant transfer
  • Altius is also working with other groups developing cooperative servicing interfaces, including NASA Goddard's Satellite Servicing Projects Division, to commercialize cooperative servicing valves and other cooperative servicing aids.

Space Robotics

Under a mix of internally-funded and NASA or DoD-sponsored projects, Altius has developed a wide range of custom robotic solutions for applications ranging from satellite servicing and space debris removal to grabbing boulders off of asteroids. Let us leverage our experience to solve your unique space robotics challenges.

  • Non-Cooperative Grasping Technologies Working with partners including SRI International, NASA JPL, and Empire Robotics, Altius has developed prototypes of a wide range of grasping technologies for grappling objects that lack cooperative grappling fixtures--everything from space debris to legacy satellites to asteroid boulders. Through these projects, Altius has prototyped grippers using electrostatic adhesives, gecko adhesives, underactuated truss graspers, and pneumatic and magnetic jamming grippers.
  • EMBARC Magnetic Capture System A key part of Altius's Bulldog servicing vehicles is the Electropermanent Magnetic Boom Assisted Robotic Capture system. Derived from Altius's earlier "Sticky Boom" capture system, EMBARC combines an EPM capture head with a 5DOF extendable/retractable boom arm to enable safely grappling even tumbling space objects.
  • Posable Hose As part of its cryogenic refueling development efforts, Altius has developed a posable cryogenic fluid transfer line that can be easily robotically connected to a pair of CryoCoupler-equipped spacecraft.
  • Dust Tolerant Toolchangers Altius is developing a toolchanger with no-exposed moving-parts for use in dusty, grimy, or other hazardous environments. The tool changers are magnetically-latched, using EPMs and a structural geometry capable of reacting significant forces and moments, and include inductive power and data transfer. These toolchangers are being designed for planetary science applications on the Moon, Mars, and elsewhere in the solar system, but also have terrestrial applications in mining, food-handling, and hazardous environment robotics.

Space Technology Development

In addition to space robotics, Altius has helped partners mature advanced space technologies. Some key examples of technologies Altius has supported development of include:

  • Magnetoshell Aerocapture A "plasma parachute" technology invented by MSNW LLC of Redmond, WA, which uses a magnetically trapped plasma to create drag for spacecraft trying to aerocapture or aerobrake. Altius helped with developing a cubesat-scale demonstrator concept for the technology.
  • Heliogyro Solar Sails A spinning, centrifugally-stabilized solar sail concept that enables much higher thrust-to-weight than traditional solar sails, as well as full 6DOF control. Altius helped a research develop and test a cubesat-scale heliogyro blade deployment/control prototype.
  • Thruster Gimbal A gimballed cryogenic GOX/GH2 gas-gas thruster system for ULA's ACES upper stage that enables long-duration control of an upper stage using boiled off propellants. The gimbal and feedline system enables two pairs of gimballed thrusters to provide the full attitude control capability of a much larger number of fixed RCS thrusters. Altius has led the development, analysis, and prototyping of the gimbal and feedline systems, and has supported hot-fire testing in partnership with Roush and ULA.

Let us help you bring your space technology to life!