$1.9 million to accelerate Space Robotics

An additional $1.9 million agreement with the U.S. Space Systems Command, through their Tactical Funding Increase, was secured by Exploration Labs (ExLabs) to accelerate the development and test of their Autonomous Capture and Acquisition Robot (ACQR). ACQR is an autonomous capture and acquisition robot. This system aims to provide substantial operational support for asteroid retrieval missions for in-situ resource utilization in cis-lunar space.

One of the near-term uses of the ACQR is to rendezvous with asteroid 99942 Apophis in 2028 before it reaches the Earth. This asteroid is expected to pass within 32,000 km of the Earth’s surface on April 13, 2029.

The thought of autonomous robots in space is both cool and concerning since robust cybersecurity measures need to be in place. ExLabs has only discussed the civil or scientific applications of ACQR but I am sure there is a military/intelligence version, too. Potential threats of hijacking or disabling the ACQR exist. This could easily lead to collisions and misuse of the captured space objects.