Altius Space Machines, a Colorado-based niche startup developing noncooperative capture technology for spaceflight applications, will work with NASA’s Langley Research Center to develop compact packaging for “long-reach” robotic arms.

The Louisville, Colo., firm has entered an unfunded Space Act Agreement with the U.S. space agency to advance its Compactly Stowable Manipulator (CSM) concept, which it says could provide the Orion multipurpose crew vehicle and other compact spacecraft with some of the same capabilities afforded the space shuttle by its Canadian-built robotic arm.

“As the name suggests, the CSM will have a very small packaging volume, yet be capable of highly dexterous, long-reach operations,” the company said in announcing the agreement.

“When combined with a noncooperative payload capture technology, the CSM would also enable satellite servicing, small-package delivery/return, and rendezvous/capture of nanosat-scale free flyers or sample return canisters.”

Altius is developing “sticky boom” spacecraft-attach technology that would use electrostatic adhesion or other phenomena to capture noncooperative objects in space. The company says the technology could allow delivery of payloads to the International Space Station and other orbital destinations without the need for station-keeping, by using long robotic arms to snatch arriving payloads. Other applications include orbital debris removal and satellite servicing.

Under a contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), Altius will provide engineering services to the Phoenix spacecraft-recycling demonstration by working with other companies and the University of Colorado to develop and integrate a composite tubular arm that can be collapsed into a compact storage package. The “storable tubular arm” would be used to carry cameras and lights, and to damp vibrations as the Phoenix spacecraft removes large antennas and other components from a defunct spacecraft in geostationary orbit.