Arkisys Inc, with partners Qediq Inc, Novawurks, Motive Space Systems, iBoss, and the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES), has been awarded a Direct-to-Phase II SBIR contract by SpaceWERX, the innovation arm of the U.S. Space Force (SpaceWERX, a component of the Air Force ResearchLaboratory (AFRL)). Led by Arkisys Inc, this newly funded project— demonstrating the building of a standalone 3-axis stabilized satellite on the Port Module—directly addresses the Space Force’s desire to make space operations more resilient and expand commercial activities in space.

“This new effort expands the overall services we have created to include the high fidelity manipulation required to assemble and then release a new space platform off of our Ports in orbit,” said Dave Barnhart of Arkisys Inc. “This award opens up a unique methodology to support on-orbit flexibility, mission change in flight, high fidelity manipulation, and assembly of complex objects. And it’s super cool!”

“Through the unique SBIR process from U.S. Space Force and SpaceWERX, we will address using resources in space to create new platforms or modify them on the fly, rather than only build new ones,” said Talbot Jaeger, CTO of Novawurks Inc. “The Port will demonstrate a platform that can create a space system from parts into an operational element. We are proud to support Arkisys with our unique HISat system to achieve a full-scale demonstration.”

The Port team will execute a full-scale demonstration in 1G to validate robotic operations in assembling a separable functional space platform, on a Port Module.

“The ability to assemble a functional satellite off of another platform is something that will open up not just Earth orbit markets and on-the-fly changes to existing satellites, but to on demand satellites for lunar or Martian exploration,” said Dr. Robert Ambrose, director of space and robotics Initiatives at TEES. “This is incredibly exciting for us as we are developing platforms to validate and demonstrate higher fidelity robotics on orbit, to build, assemble, repair and operate .”

Layoffs: AeroVironment

Virginia-based drone maker, Aerovironment plans to layoff 17 employees at their facility in Petaluma, CA.

“With the recent shifting of U.S. DOD funding away from medium UAS company-owned, company-operated (COCO) operations, AeroVironment made the difficult decision to reduce the number of employees directly operating these sites located outside the U.S., along with some support staff. Approximately 80 employees were impacted across the organization, in both Petaluma, CA, and within our MUAS Field Service Organization.

“The outlook for the rest of AV’s business – including for our MUAS business outside of COCO services – remains strong with the recent selection of AV as one of the providers for FTUAS increment 2 program, and the award of a sale of systems as part of the U.S. Military Aid package to Ukraine.”

Aerovironment acquired the Petaluma facility back in 2021 when it was Arcturus UAV. The location currently has 120 employees, and the WARN notice doesn’t offer details on which jobs are impacted.

Hiring: DIA

Similar to other IC agencies, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) sent a shout out on Twitter to let people know that they’re hiring. While the notice didn’t specify how many openings they have, the DIA did tout that they offer “a career with job security, good benefits and training opportunities.” Interested applicants were encouraged to attend a virtual hiring event at DIA. You have until March 22 to apply. There are currently 45 open positions, with many summer internship opportunities listed.

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Opportunity to Watch

Leidos added the University of Michigan (U-M) to its list of partners assisting on the Mayhem program, a $334 million, 51-month air-breathing hypersonic contract awarded by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). The innovative partnership will allow students in the U-M Aerospace Engineering program to receive experience that contributes to Mayhem through the university’s Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) lab.

“The University of Michigan will be a critical component to the Mayhem strategy,” said Artie Mabbett, operations manager for the Leidos Innovation Center. “The students will gain firsthand experience experimenting with DE/MBSE tools aiding in development of the virtual ecosystem that will ultimately be transitioned to a Leidos environment for implementation on the Mayhem program. Not only does this benefit the program directly, but it also creates a pipeline of incredible talent with real world experience for the defense industrial complex.”

U-M students will support Leidos by assembling pieces of the MBSE environment, which Leidos will deploy in the digital engineering ecosystem for the team working on Mayhem. The idea was generated through Mabbett’s work with George Halow, an aerospace engineering professor of practice at U-M and program director for the university’s MBSE lab. They saw that the university’s growing success in MBSE education could add a strategic advantage and expand the AFRL’s goals for the program.

“Our team can have a significant impact in establishing a standard for Models-Based Systems Engineering that will help Leidos unlock massive efficiencies, cost and time savings,” Halow said. “It is our goal to help industry make this happen by giving aerospace students and our partners the tools they need to be successful.”

The initial aerospace engineering students were selected by Halow to begin working with the team at Leidos, and more will be added over subsequent semesters.

“It’s going to be challenging, for sure, because we’ll have to develop the techniques in addition to a full aerospace course load,” one of the aerospace students said. “But it’s definitely going to be very rewarding to work on something that’s at the cutting edge of aerospace technology.”

The aerospace industry faces a growing need for expertise in systems engineering and system projects. Through this collaboration, U-M will pioneer providing this education to aerospace students.

“This is a formative opportunity for us,” another aerospace student said. “Not only is it a massive project, but we’re really starting from square one. I feel like I’m being handed very meaningful work.”

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.