NASA has awarded a Space Act Agreement (SAA) to Special Aerospace Services (SAS) to develop a commercial version of an Autonomous Maneuvering Unit (AMU) astronaut jetpack to be used in civil, commercial, and national security missions.
Awarded under the second Collaborations for Commercial Space Capabilities (CCSC-2) initiative, the new commercial version of the AMU system will allow safer assembly of commercial LEO (low Earth orbit) space stations, servicing, retrieval, and inspection of in-space systems.
The company spent the last three years investing in in-space servicing technology, propulsion, and robotic technology, specifically in the prototype development of the AMU and the Astronaut Assist-AMU for commercial in-space servicing and mobility applications. The exact nature of the new unit has yet to be determined, but it is likely to use cold gases such as nitrogen for the thrusters, as well as intelligent systems to help maintain stability and navigation. It may also use advanced features such as an automatic return function to bring unconscious astronauts back to the airlock for rescue.
“This agreement is critical in providing expertise, historical data, lessons learned, and access to NASA personnel in order for SAS to accelerate our commercial development of the AMU technology,” said Special Aerospace Services Chief Technical Officer & Co-Founder Tim Bulk.
NASA‘s CCSC-2 initiative is designed to advance commercial space-related efforts through NASA contributions of technical expertise, assessments, lessons learned, technologies, and data. It continues to pursue the goals set in the US National Space Policy and NASA’s strategic plan that will benefit human spaceflight and the country’s commercial low Earth orbit (LEO) economy.