Space Force and Starfish Space have announced their plans for a satellite docking mission, which aims to enhance the maneuverability of national security assets in space. The U.S. Space Force, in collaboration with Starfish Space and other programs such as SpaceWERX and Space Safari, will be working on the Assured Access to Space program to improve the responsiveness and strategic flexibility of America’s space assets. Starfish Space was awarded a $37.5 million contract for their Otter satellite docking spacecraft, and this mission is expected to be a first-of-its-kind demonstration. The Space Systems Command has provided additional details about the project, highlighting its significance in enhancing the capabilities of national security assets in orbit.
Colonel Joyce Bulson, the director of servicing, mobility, and logistics in the Assured Access to Space program, expressed that this project marks a significant advancement in meeting the needs of our warfighters in sustained space maneuver.

Starfish Space recently achieved a breakthrough by successfully testing a smaller version of their Otter system, called Otter Pup, after overcoming several technical challenges. The Otter Pup team utilized the spacecraft’s sensing and guidance system to coordinate a rendezvous with another satellite already in orbit.

The full-scale Otter system would possess the capability to dock with other satellites, providing the ability to refuel them or assist in altering their trajectory while in orbit. The Space Force refers to this capability as “augmented maneuver.”
Bulson stated that Starfish Space’s Otter has a variety of applications, including augmented maneuver, station-keeping, life extension, orbital transfer, and orbital disposal. These capabilities ensure access to important orbital slots while promoting responsible practices in space. The contract was obtained through the Department of the Air Force’s STRATFI program, which utilizes private capital investment as a matching source of funds over a performance period of up to four years.
According to Starfish, the Otter project will utilize a funding of $37.5 million from the Space Force and $30 million from previous and future venture capital investments. The main goal of the demonstration mission is to send an Otter spacecraft to geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) in order to dock and maneuver national security assets. The specific assets to be maneuvered and the detailed operational plan have not been disclosed publicly.

Starfish will be responsible for owning and operating the Otter vehicle, offering on-orbit services commercially. The launch is expected to occur as early as 2026, followed by two years of operation as per the STRATFI contract.

In a statement sent to GeekWire, Starfish co-founder Trevor Bennett expressed enthusiasm for collaborating with the Space Force to develop the necessary capabilities for dynamic space operations. He also highlighted the program’s potential to provide a tangible on-orbit capability within a relevant timeframe.
In 2019, Bennett and Austin Link, alumni of Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture, established Starfish. The startup has been recognized by the Space Force and NASA with various awards to aid the advancement of its satellite docking system. Additionally, it successfully secured $14 million in funding through a Series A round last year.