Nanoracks to use Maritime Launch Services Cylcone 4M Rocket Upper Stages for Outposts

Cyclone 4M upper stage. Credit: Yuzhnoye SDO/Maritime Launch Services.

At the International Astronautical Congress in Washington today, Nanoracks announced an agreement with Maritime Launch Services (MLS) to use the upper stages of the Cyclone 4M (C4M) rocket for Outposts.

Nanoracks is looking at different ways to build commercial space stations, or as they call them, Outposts.

The agreement states that Nanoracks will work with MLS to re-purpose and re-use spent C4M upper rocket vehicle stages after launch from the MLS spaceport in Nova Scotia.

Repurposing spent upper stages of launch vehicles and converting them into commercial space stations in orbit.
Outpost concept: Repurposing spent upper stages of launch vehicles and converting them into commercial space stations in orbit. Credit: Nanoracks.

In the Nanoracks press release, CEO Jeff Manber said “it’s Nanoracks vision to re-purpose upper stages of launch vehicles and convert them into Outposts. We envision populating the solar system with cost-efficient platforms, that can serve as hotels, research parks, fuel depots, storage centers and more. We are proving time and time again that there are new ways to look at how we explore deep space, and that we need to think creatively, but work cost-efficiently. This agreement with Maritime Launch will provide us with the in-orbit test bench second stage articles to do exactly that, and to grow our space industry even further.”

In July of this year Nanoracks and its partners released a NASA funded study titled Outpost: An In-Orbit Commercial Space Station Habitat Development Enabling Cost-Effective and Sustainable U.S. Presence in Low-Earth Orbit which details the Outpost concept.

Steve Matier the CEO of MLS told SpaceQ that the agreement gives them another potential revenue source should the Nanoracks concept work.

Matier also stated in the press release that “the proven heritage of the C4M launch family, with over 220 launches to date, will provide Nanoracks with plenty of opportunities to choose the appropriate missions on which to test and develop the proposed upper stage conversions into resilient automated habitats, and one day human habitats. Canada has a reputation for providing in-space robotics for the International Space Station, such as the CANADARM and the Dextre programs. With Nanoracks, we hope to see this country’s legacy expanding further into economically viable space habitats, and to organize the related launch missions to bring equipment and supplies to these new working structures.”

On Monday, MLS also announced that the Yuzhnoye Design Office had successfully completed the qualification test of the fully integrated upper stage of the Cyclone 4M rocket.

Outpost demonstration

In related news, Nanoracks announced yesterday it was proceeding with its first in-space Outpost demonstration and that Maxar, a part of the Outpost team, would develop an articulating robotic arm with a friction milling end-effector. Nanoracks said that “this friction milling will use high rotations per minute melting our metal material in such a way that a cut is made, yet we anticipate avoiding generating a single piece of orbital debris.”

Nanoracks said that the demonstration mission was targeting a “Q4 2020 dedicated rideshare mission, will fly on an ESPA ring, and will activate after the deployment of all other secondary payloads is complete. As our mission commences, we will have 30 minutes to one hour to complete the cutting of three metal pieces that are representative of various vehicle upper stages, including the Centaur 3. Nanoracks plans to downlink photos and videos of the friction milling and cutting. “

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About Marc Boucher

Marc Boucher
Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive Inc. Boucher has 20 years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 27 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.