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Former NASA official starts company to put robotic spacecraft in orbit

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Former NASA official starts company to put robotic spacecraft in orbit
An illustration depicts a robotic outpost and several satellites for Maryland-based company Quantum Space. Image courtesy of Quantum Space

ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 3 (UPI) -- A former NASA official revealed Thursday that his new space company, Maryland-based Quantum Space, plans to launch robotic satellite outposts to orbit the sun about a million miles from the Earth.

The eventual goal is to provide easier and cheaper access to space while also limiting debris in Earth's orbit, Steve Jurczyk, Quantum CEO, told UPI in an interview.

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"We'd have a regular cadence or rhythm of launches, and we'll take care of everything needed for a space mission including launch, communications and in-space servicing," said Juczyk, who left NASA in 2021 as acting administrator.

Quantum's spacecraft would head deep into space to gravitational points known as Lagrange 1 or Lagrange 2, where the James Webb Space Telescope arrived Jan. 24.

Lagrange points offer some stability and help keep spacecraft relatively near Earth as they orbit the sun.

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The company plans to launch its first prototype, or pathfinder, in 2024 to Lagrange point 1, Jurczyk said. That's almost a million miles from Earth in the direction of the sun, which is over 90 million miles away.

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"We're in the mission design phase, working to firm up the requirements, on a relatively small satellite," he said. "We're planning a remote sensing mission to do remote sensing of the Earth and the Moon, to give us remote sensing data from that vantage point."

By staging spacecraft at the Lagrange point, such satellites can use relatively little energy or fuel to stay in position -- whereas being closer to Earth requires more thruster burns to maintain position, Jurczyk said.

The Lagrange points will allow broad views of the Earth and moon as they move in their orbits, which Jurczyk said will be of interest to many space customers and the U.S. Department of Defense.

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The company also plans to position spacecraft in locations between the Earth and the moon, he said.

Quantum wants space robots to service spacecraft, refuel them and install or uninstall them from the larger robotic outposts, he said.

Jurczyk has the backing of powerhouse space investment firm IBX, also based in Maryland. The company declined to release any information about the initial investment or company finances.

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IBX founder and CEO Kam Ghaffarian also started such companies as Houston-based Axiom Space -- which plans the first all-private astronaut mission to the International Space Station in March.

The company also includes Ben Reed, former division chief of NASA's Exploration and In-Space Services at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

"Commercial space companies and activities have advanced, [and] particularly sort of taken off in the last five years with with the help of NASA," Jurczyk said.

"I became more and more motivated to be part of that after I left the agency," he said.

Out-of-this-world images from space

The International Space Station is pictured from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour during a flyaround of the orbiting lab that took place following its undocking from the Harmony module’s space-facing port on November 8. Photo courtesy of NASA

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