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Starfish’s Otter Pup Snaps Photo of D-Orbit Satellite in Space

By Rachel Jewett | May 7, 2024

Image captured in space by Otter Pup of the D-Orbit ION-SCV006 on April 19 at a distance of approximately 3km. Photo: Starfish Space

Starfish Space executed a successful in-space rendezvous between its Otter Pup satellite and D-Orbit’s ION SCV006 satellite. The companies announced the milestone on May 7. 

This was a backup mission for the Otter Pup, which faced a number of challenges on orbit. After launch deployment last year, the spacecraft fell into an uncontrollable rotation and teams worked for two months to stabilize the spacecraft

Otter Pup’s original mission was to dock with another spacecraft. After the initial setbacks, Starfish Space decided to validate other core technologies with the rendezvous missions. Starfish Space and D-Orbit worked together to coordinate plans for the close flyby. 

The ION executed prescribed manuevers and ION passed by Otter Pup at increasingly close orbits, down to within approximately 1 kilometer. On April 19, Otter Pup pointed its cameras and captured images of ION, marking the successful rendezvous.

Other companies contributed to the mission including Redwire Space, which provided the camera system utilized for image capture. LeoLab offered on-orbit state data, and Astro Digital, delivering continuous operational support throughout the duration of Otter Pup’s mission lifecycle.

Dr. Trevor Bennett, Co-founder of Starfish Space, said this mission maximized the value of the Otter Pup spacecraft despite its numerous challenges. 

“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,” Bennett said. “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.”