Recently, Nanoracks announced the Company’s first in-space Outpost demonstration mission in a letter from CEO Jeffrey Manber. Nanoracks, in collaboration with Maxar, will be building and operating a self-contained hosted payload platform that will demonstrate the robotic cutting of second stage representative tank material on-orbit. This test will be the first of its kind to demonstrate the future ability to convert spent upper stages in orbit into commercial habitats – a long-term goal of Nanoracks.
On this SpaceX Falcon 9 mission, the Nanoracks Outpost demonstration will be hosted on an ESPA ring and be operated after all other secondary payloads have been deployed. This Outpost demonstration is funded via Nanoracks’ NextSTEP-2 contract with NASA.
When I was at IAC, I heard that this would be flying on the back of Centaur. That made sense, as ULA was a partner in Nanoracks’ Outpost program.
But after this announcement, I went looking, and ULA hasn’t appeared in anything related to Outposts in months.
It looks like Outposts might be yet another exciting project with ULA sitting on the sidelines.
At this point, just about all of my hope for ULA to see an interesting future—CisLunar-1000 et al—is gone.