Space Commerce

ThinkOrbital Awarded SpaceWERX Orbital Prime Contract

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
September 15, 2022
Filed under , , , ,
ThinkOrbital Awarded SpaceWERX Orbital Prime Contract
ThinkOrbital Awarded SpaceWERX Orbital Prime Contract

ThinkOrbital announces it has been selected by SpaceWERX for a STTR Phase I in the amount of US$ 250,000 to investigate how it’s Orbital Platform Unified System for On-Orbit Service and Assembly (OPUS-OSA) can enable In-space Service Assembly and Manufacturing (ISAM) capabilities being explored by the Department of the Air Force (DAF) and United States Space Force (USSF) through the Orbital Prime program. The OPUS-OSA platform is a collaboration between ThinkOrbital, Redwire Space and Thunderbird Global School of Management (part of Arizona State University) as industry and academic partners that will support in achieving milestones for Phase One of Orbital Prime space program

Orbital Prime was created to accelerate the commercial ISAM market toward a use case of Active Debris Remediation. The Air Force Research Laboratory and SpaceWERX have partnered to streamline the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) process by accelerating the small business experience through a faster proposal to award timelines, changing the pool of potential applicants by expanding opportunities to small business and losing bureaucratic overhead by continually implementing process improvement changes in contract execution. The DAF began offering ‘The Open Topic’ SBIR/STTR program in 2018 which expanded the range of innovations the DAF funded and now on September 1, 2022, ThinkOrbital will start its journey to create and provide innovative capabilities that will strengthen the national defense of the United States of America.

“Our OPUS-OSA proposal is based on ThinkOrbital’s core ThinkPlatform design, which relies on mature space technologies, such as autonomous robotic arm assembly and electron beam welding to deliver a large volume orbital space platform,” said Jim MacConnell, Chief Technology Officer at ThinkOrbital. “We’re exploring the possibility of delivering a platform with 4000m3 of internal volume in a single-launch configuration. That is four times the volume of the International Space Station in a single launch, thanks to developments in super heavy launch and autonomous on-orbit assembly capabilities.”

“Our platform can be a great fit for SpaceWERX’s ISAM goals, as you need an orbital spaceport with large volume to be able to store and process space debris, satellite servicing, manufacturing and other outcomes” said Sebastian Asprella, Co-Founder and CEO of ThinkOrbital. “Our OPUS-OSA effort is our second win under the Orbital Prime program, as we are also part of a Phase 1 Active Debris Remediation effort led by Kall Morris Incorporated (KMI). Such programs led by AFRL and SpaceWERX are critical to accelerate and leverage public private partnerships and develop emerging ISAM technologies.”

“ThinkOrbital is an innovative new company providing a vital service in the evolution of space exploration for our nation. We must continue to push forward into space for the benefit of all humanity,” said Captain Jim Wetherbee, ThinkOrbital’s advisor of Operations, Astronaut Experience and Mission Assurance. “The work our team will do as part of Orbital Prime is a crucial first-step towards advancing technological advancements in space exploration, improving the quality of life on Earth and creating the basis for long-term safe haven in space for the human race, inspiring the next generation of scientists, doctors, and engineers.”

“ASU’s Thunderbird School of Global Management and ASU engineering are excited to support ThinkOrbital in their USSF Orbital Prime work,” said Zaheer Ali, Thunderbird-ASU’s Professor of Practice for Space Leadership Program. “We look forward to helping demonstrate the technical feasibility and economic viability of the ThinkOrbital platform. The OPUS platform will have the ability to support SpaceWERX’s long term goals in ISAM missions. Such partnerships between entrepreneurial and academic innovators are a critical component of the space industrial base.”

About ThinkOrbital: ThinkOrbital Inc. is a NewSpace company developing the innovative single-launch configured ThinkPlatform. The ThinkPlatform is a large, scalable, and cost-efficient space platform that serves a variety of use cases by providing pressurized and unpressurized platforms for the NewSpace economy. The ThinkPlatform is a multi-mission space platform, envisioned to serve private and public sector needs such as satellite servicing, space debris removal, in-space manufacturing, research missions, on-orbit storage & refueling, and space tourism. Learn more: 

About Redwire: Redwire Corporation (NYSE: RDW) is a leader in space infrastructure for the next generation space economy, with valuable IP for solar power generation and in-space 3D printing and manufacturing. With decades of flight heritage combined with the agile and innovative culture of a commercial space platform, Redwire is uniquely positioned to assist its customers in solving the complex challenges of future space missions. For more information, please visit   

About Thunderbird – ASU: Thunderbird School of Global Management is a unit of the Arizona State University Enterprise. For 75 years, Thunderbird has been the vanguard of global management and leadership education, creating inclusive and sustainable prosperity worldwide by educating future-ready global leaders capable of tackling the world’s most significant challenges. Thunderbird’s Master of Global Management was ranked #1 in the world for 2019 by the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education. ASU is ranked No. 1 “Most Innovative School” in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for six years in succession. Thunderbird Executive Education has been ranked in the top 10 internationally for decades. Learn more:  

About AFRL

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force and United States Space Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit:

About SpaceWERX

SpaceWERX is the Space component of AFWERX (a program office at the Air Force Research Laboratory -AFRL) which connects innovators across government, industry and academia. Through innovation and collaboration with our nation’s top subject-matter experts and harnessing the power of ingenuity of internal talent, by expanding technology, talent, and transition partnerships for rapid and affordable commercial and military capability. Additional information is available at:

About SpaceWERX Orbital Prime

SpaceWERX Orbital Prime leverages a diverse industry partnership engagement strategy to identify nascent space technology sectors that, if “primed”, could advance U.S. national security and economic prosperity. Prime engagement is not limited to government investment, but also allows SpaceWERX to address key policy concerns as well as offer testbeds and platforms to advance capabilities. The first Space Prime effort, Orbital Prime will invigorate the In-space Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing (ISAM) market using Active Debris Remediation (ADR) as a use case for the foundational technologies. Learn more at

Company Press Contact:Sushil Karam
VP – Strategy, ThinkOrbital

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.