Blue Canyon Technologies chosen by Made In Space for orbital manufacturing demo mission

Darrell Etherington

On-orbit manufacturing startup Made In Space has tapped Colorado's Blue Canyon Technologies (BCT) to help support its Archinaut One demonstration mission contracted by NASA, which is currently set to take place in 2022. The mission will see Made In Space show off the assembly of two 10-meter solar arrays on orbit, which will then be used to power an ESPA-class satellite, providing up to five times more power than is available via power sources used for those satellites not assembled on orbit.

BCT will be providing development of the spacecraft platform (along with Northrop Grumman) that Made In Space will use to delver its Archinaut manufacturing platform, which employs additive manufacturing and robotic assembly to be able to build structures while on orbit. The Colorado company, founded in 2008, has developed a number of spacecraft for a variety of projects, including JPL's first-ever operational CubeSat project, the Asteria space telescope.

I spoke to BCT systems engineer Brian Crum about the Made In Space project, and he said that it's representative of the kind of work they've been doing, which mainly concentrates around interesting demonstration missions and initial operations of novel space technologies that could have tremendous impact on how work is done in space.

"Given the size of spacecraft that we develop and specialize in, and at that price point, it really lends itself to these Demonstration Missions that are follow-on to operational concepts," he said. "We are a good solution for testing out concepts, and we get approached quite a bit for that [...] we get a lot of interesting ideas of people wanting to try things, and this is definitely one of them."

BCT is actually in the process of building more than 60 spacecraft, and it doubled in size over the past year. Next, the company plans to open a new combined headquarters and production facility that spans more than 80,000 acres, which should be opening sometime later this year. That growth is directly driven by an uptick in business -- something Crum says is the result of a boom in experimentation and technology demonstrations coming from all vectors, including government and private industry.

"There are definitely more people that have more appetite for risk," he said. "We we are growing because the demand for the spacecraft is growing, that's the simple answer. We're hiring the right people to support these programs, and the number of programs is greatly increasing. Along with that, as we grow larger in size, and the spacecraft grow larger and size, they become more complex, which means they need a little bit more effort. So there's there's a little bit more engineering that goes into them as well."