Altius in cooperation with JPL, developed the Gecko Gripper. Gecko materials need no external power to grip an object. Once the grip has been established, no further power is needed to maintain the grip on the target object.
The original Sticky Boom utilized a gripper based on electro-static adhesion. This is an ideal candidate for grasping such objects as orbital debris where powered grippers are of little concern.
The latest member of the Altius family of gripper/graspers is the contract award for the NASA Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM) where vacuum compatible jamming grippers are used in conjunction with movable arms to grasp and remove a boulder from the surface of an asteroid.
Altius is developing several projects for enhancing the ability of ground-based researchers to operate experimental equipment aboard the International Space Station. These projects will allow the ISS crew to attend to more important activities during their crowded daily schedule. Altius is currently developing robotics that are integral to the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) and a feasibility study on augmenting the SPHEREs robots with manipulative STEM robotic arms.
In addition to the HatchBasket commercial market, both the Electro-Static and Gecko Grippers ability to connect to any surface in space and our extendable STEM Boom technology enables many “non-cooperative capture” applications, including assembly of satellites on-orbit, capture for satellite refueling and servicing, capture of dangerous space junk for deorbiting, capture of sample return canisters from planetary sample return missions, and even anchoring to asteroids.
Altius has been awarded a patent for the concept of Direct to Station (D2S) or more properly known as Direct to Facility. This is where a rocket upper stage is commanded from the orbiting space facility into a close enough approach where a robotic Sticky Boom grappling arm reaches out and captures it. The upper stage is then available for manipulations such as soft docking or berthing, gentle separation of payload and upperstage, etc.. The upper stage or payload can be released into passively-safe departure trajectories (sample return, satellite deployment, depot services, etc.) Other benefits are: Key enabler for affordable propellant depots and Launcher agnostic propellant deliveries to orbiting facilities.
Altius has expanded on our original Sticky Boom concept and has completed contracts to develop an articulated, posable and extendable STEM Boom Camera Platform for DARPA. This enables customers to place a low-mass, long extension camera platform for imaging TPS, antenna or structure deployments, almost anything you can imagine can now be imaged using an Altius Camera Boom System.
Altius is collaborating with MSNW, of Redmond, WA, to develop a system for NASA that will use plasma effects to slow spacecraft in the upper reaches of an atmosphere to slow a spacecraft at a high enough altitude before the friction heating effects of the atmosphere can become apparent. This has applicability for both Earth and Planets/Moons with atmospheres.
Small Sat Services
One area that Altius finds interesting is the ability to assemble satellites on-orbit. NovaWurks has designed a small satellite form factor that enables assembly of a satellite in a myriad of configurations. These small satellites literally click together, and each segment has a specific function (antenna, power, comms, etc.). Additionally, the possibility of fueling (or re-fueling) is feasible for these micro-satellites.