Space simulation and analytics company Slingshot Aerospace has been awarded a 39-month, $25.2 million contract by the US Space Force (USSF) to develop and deliver two of its products: Digital Space Twin and Slingshot Laboratory. The contract was funded by Space Systems Command and the USSF’s venture arm, SpaceWERX.
Digital Space Twin is a virtual environment that not only provides a realistic simulation of in-orbit in-game physics, but also reflects what is happening in space in real time, using multiple data sources to map the current location of orbiting bodies (satellites and space debris) and take space weather into account. The program can be used to simulate missions as well as to plan future satellite constellations, which is beneficial for government and commercial entities.
“It was important to us from the very beginning to create products that work for both government and commercial use,” Melanie Stricklan, co-founder and CEO of Slingshot Aerospace told TechCrunch. “It will take a collective effort from all commercial, governmental and civil organizations to ensure that space remains a tenet of our global economy for generations to come, which is why our products have been gaining momentum in both sectors.”
For defense agencies in particular, Digital Space Twin can also be used for war games. (Ender’s Game, anyone?) According to a press release, “USSF will use Slingshot Aerospace’s Digital Space Twin to visualize potential adverse acts that could occur in orbit. By being informed and understanding the impact current threats, users can use known data to plan and simulate responses and predict future adversary behavior to maintain national security.
Slingshot Laboratory, on the other hand, is a training program with virtual environments that mirror astrodynamics and astronautics – it’s basically a physics-based sandbox game to help students conceptualize the spatial environment in an immersive and interactive way. The USSF plans to run pilot programs at Basic Military Training (BMT), the National Security Space Institute (NSSI), the 319th Combat Training Squadron and the 533rd Training Squadron.
Prior to the USSF investment, Slingshot Aerospace’s primary product was Slingshot Beacon, a satellite collision avoidance program whose customers will represent 63% of all satellite constellations in low Earth orbit by the end of 2022. The program recently raised $34.6 million on a two-part series. A ride, but it faces competition from companies like LeoLabs and Kayhan Space. But Slingshot’s priorities could change with the new contract.
“Slingshot’s Digital Space Twin is quickly gaining loyalty thanks to the significant investments our company has made privately in the product, in addition to the investments we’ve received from the government,” Stricklan says. “Our Digital Space Twin is poised to soon become our flagship product due to the clear value it has for a wide range of customers across the industry, including spacecraft owner-operators, operators of launch, manufacturers, insurers and future developers of space-related products.”
It’s a classic case where the money goes, the innovation will follow.