Starfish Space Successfully Conducts Rendezvous Between Otter Pup and D-Orbit’s ION Spacecraft

Starfish Space Successfully Conducts Rendezvous Between Otter Pup and D-Orbit’s ION Spacecraft

Starfish Space, in collaboration with D-Orbit, a space logistics company, announced a successful on-orbit rendezvous between Starfish’s Otter Pup and D-Orbit’s ION SCV006 satellite. The Starfish team calculated and directed precise maneuvers for ION that culminated in this successful rendezvous, with Otter Pup capturing images of the ION spacecraft as it maneuvered in close proximity. This mission represents a significant engineering achievement for Starfish and D-Orbit, and a further step towards making affordable, available satellite servicing a reality.

Following the successful recovery from initial rotation rates exceeding 330 degrees per second and a thruster anomaly during subsequent commissioning, Starfish sought to maximize the value of Otter Pup for testing and validation of its core technologies. In January, Starfish and D-Orbit agreed to attempt a rendezvous mission in which Starfish would direct D-Orbit to execute maneuvers placing ION within close proximity of Otter Pup.

Rendezvous planning began with the teams at Starfish and D-Orbit working closely together to assess the feasibility of the mission, given that the ION satellite was not originally designed for this type of mission. Once the teams determined the mission’s viability, Starfish planned, calculated, and calibrated multiple desired close approach and auxiliary maneuver plans, including pointing and targeting for alignment between Otter Pup and ION. 

Starfish collaborated closely with D-Orbit to transfer and implement the calculations to ION, as well as issue instructions for the necessary burns to maneuver ION into position. D-Orbit safely operated ION and executed the prescribed maneuvers, with significant support on conjunction analysis and other capabilities from the EUSST (S3TOC) team.

By mid-April, Otter Pup and ION were in position for the final rendezvous attempt. ION passed by Otter Pup at increasingly close orbits, down to within approximately 1 kilometer. On Friday, April 19th, Otter Pup pointed its cameras and captured images of ION, marking the successful rendezvous.

Dr. Trevor Bennett, Co-founder of Starfish Space, emphasized the significance of these achievements, stating, “Beyond validating a core capability, these images will provide invaluable data for our ongoing GNC software development. Continuing to operate Otter Pup gave us a lot of value; it allowed us to increase our satellite operations experience, and to test and validate software and hardware on-orbit, including the camera system that was used to capture these images.”

ION’s ability to safely and reliably conduct the maneuvers required for this mission served as another milestone for one of the most accomplished satellite platforms currently operating in space. With over twelve ION spacecraft launched to-date, D-Orbit has proven itself as a leading provider of space logistics and orbital transportation services.

“The successful flyby between Starfish Space’s Otter Pup and our ION SCV006 is a great achievement for both companies,” commented Matteo Bartolini, VP Sales Engineering at D-Orbit. “This operation not only demonstrates the precision and reliability of our ION spacecraft but also highlights the robust capabilities of our teams working in concert with Starfish. Achieving such a complex maneuver truly underscores our commitment to advancing the field of satellite servicing and orbital operations.”

In addition to the engineering teams at Starfish and D-Orbit, this mission was made possible by Redwire Space, which provided the camera system utilized for image capture, LeoLabs, offering crucial on-orbit state data, and Astro Digital, delivering continuous operational support throughout the duration of Otter Pup’s mission lifecycle.

“Executing this rendezvous means we absolutely maximized the value we could get out of Otter Pup, in spite of the numerous challenges we faced, from emergency deployment to thruster failure,” said Bennett. “Space domain awareness (capturing images of other objects in space), is often a mission in and of itself. We were able to execute this task as a backup after multiple challenges and failures. This was a rewarding way to conclude our first demonstration mission, and we look forward to returning to orbit with our next mission to push our capabilities forward.”

Click here to learn more about Starfish Space's Otter Satellite Servicing Vehicle.

Publisher: SatNow
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GNSS Constellations - A list of all GNSS satellites by constellations


Satellite NameOrbit Date
BeiDou-3 G4Geostationary Orbit (GEO)17 May, 2023
BeiDou-3 G2Geostationary Orbit (GEO)09 Mar, 2020
Compass-IGSO7Inclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)09 Feb, 2020
BeiDou-3 M19Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)16 Dec, 2019
BeiDou-3 M20Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)16 Dec, 2019
BeiDou-3 M21Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)23 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 M22Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)23 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 I3Inclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)04 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 M23Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)22 Sep, 2019
BeiDou-3 M24Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)22 Sep, 2019


Satellite NameOrbit Date
GSAT0223MEO - Near-Circular05 Dec, 2021
GSAT0224MEO - Near-Circular05 Dec, 2021
GSAT0219MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0220MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0221MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0222MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0215MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0216MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0217MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0218MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017


Satellite NameOrbit Date
Kosmos 2569--07 Aug, 2023
Kosmos 2564--28 Nov, 2022
Kosmos 2559--10 Oct, 2022
Kosmos 2557--07 Jul, 2022
Kosmos 2547--25 Oct, 2020
Kosmos 2545--16 Mar, 2020
Kosmos 2544--11 Dec, 2019
Kosmos 2534--27 May, 2019
Kosmos 2529--03 Nov, 2018
Kosmos 2527--16 Jun, 2018


Satellite NameOrbit Date
Navstar 82Medium Earth Orbit19 Jan, 2023
Navstar 81Medium Earth Orbit17 Jun, 2021
Navstar 78Medium Earth Orbit22 Aug, 2019
Navstar 77Medium Earth Orbit23 Dec, 2018
Navstar 76Medium Earth Orbit05 Feb, 2016
Navstar 75Medium Earth Orbit31 Oct, 2015
Navstar 74Medium Earth Orbit15 Jul, 2015
Navstar 73Medium Earth Orbit25 Mar, 2015
Navstar 72Medium Earth Orbit29 Oct, 2014
Navstar 71Medium Earth Orbit02 Aug, 2014


Satellite NameOrbit Date
NVS-01Geostationary Orbit (GEO)29 May, 2023
IRNSS-1IInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)12 Apr, 2018
IRNSS-1HSub Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (Sub-GTO)31 Aug, 2017
IRNSS-1GGeostationary Orbit (GEO)28 Apr, 2016
IRNSS-1FGeostationary Orbit (GEO)10 Mar, 2016
IRNSS-1EGeosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)20 Jan, 2016
IRNSS-1DInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)28 Mar, 2015
IRNSS-1CGeostationary Orbit (GEO)16 Oct, 2014
IRNSS-1BInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)04 Apr, 2014
IRNSS-1AInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)01 Jul, 2013