Above: Orbital achieves significant milestone with NASA in Space Station gravity tech
by Brad Bartz
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Jul 25, 2023
In a significant leap for space technology, Above: Orbital, the innovative space-based platform design and development company, has recently confirmed the successful testing of its cold gas engine thruster technology and related software. The trial, held at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, highlights a remarkable progression in the development of artificial gravity platforms.
Above: Orbital's business focuses on catering to a diverse set of clientele including the U.S. Department of Defense and commercial entities. The recent achievement underscores the company's strong position in the space industry and its ongoing commitment to advancing the field. Rhonda Stevenson, the CEO and president of Above, who supervised the testing process alongside the engineering team, partners, and investors, expressed her exhilaration at this milestone.
Stevenson conveyed, "Our test was conducted in collaboration with NASA as part of our recent Umbrella Space Act Agreement (SAA). We couldn't be prouder of our stellar team who demonstrated that we could rotate and control our space station and that we are a strong competitor in the space ecosystem."
The SAA agreement grants Above: Orbital the opportunity to access facilities, systems testing support, technology, tools, and to cooperate on several technologies it is currently crafting. These technologies are directed towards a broad spectrum of applications including commercial, civil, and government customers for inhabitable cislunar space stations and imminent launch projects.
Held in association with NASA's Flat Floor Robotics Lab at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, the test made use of an ultra-flat surface that enables near frictionless movement of objects across it. The lab, a validation ground for NASA's space shuttle and other space technologies, collaborates with firms like Above: Orbital, enabling them to trial their space engineering technologies.
This specific test was directed towards authenticating Above: Orbital's internally crafted rocket thrusters, avionics, structure, and control algorithms, all of which would be instrumental in maneuvering a space station providing hybrid gravity. The company was successful in verifying the accuracy of its technologies as they would operate in the vacuum of space.
Large space stations necessitate the capacity to manipulate gravity for a range of applications like manufacturing, research, defense, and tourism. The ability to spin or rotate a station generates a level of gravity, a function that Above was successful in validating during this test.
Stevenson opined, "Above is well positioned with commercial and government partners to provide more space in space, using existing, commercial off the shelf technologies in new and innovative ways." She further commented on the company's approach, "We're taking the incremental steps to derisk our technology and demonstrate our near-term capabilities and relevancy for our longer-term objectives building platforms and ultimately full space station where people will live, work and play." This recent success lays the groundwork for the company's ambitions in creating a habitable space station.