Michigan-based in-space drive startup Orbion is working with a key new partner, the Department of Defense (DOD). Orbion has received a research contract from the Propulsion Directorate of the US Air Force Research Laboratory, which specifically aims to assist the DOD in "improving the resilience of US space systems" can be applied to DOD satellites when in larger constellation form, to give these satellites the ability to move forward in orbit, and in a manner that can be cost-effectively scaled. Brad King, CEO of Orbion, said in a news release announcing that volume is a strategy to protect US space systems against potential attacks from abroad. The ability to ship large numbers of small satellites at a low cost King said in a statement: "Orbion is developing mass production techniques to build drive systems for commercial customers. With this research, we investigate how or whether our manufacturing processes need to be changed to meet DOD requirements. "
It is true that the US and other international powers with access to space in the past have focused primarily on large, expensive, single pieces of orbital hardware as strategic capital. The transition to the small satellite constellation approach currently being pursued by a number of private companies has definite advantages in terms of redundancy and interchangeability, lowers costs and makes their technology available to a much wider range of potential customers than ever before and is practical for the application in the small satellite design. The DOD may not have the same budget issues as a satellite launch, but long-term cost savings that are also associated with a tactical advantage are a difficult business.