TransAstronautica, a company created by Joel Sercel, the ex-chief technology officer of Momentus, seeks funds for a rival space logistics enterprise. TransAstra’s business concept begins with satellite transportation in orbit and refills rockets with asteroids’ resources.
Sercel, the Southern California startup’s founder and Chief Executive Officer, told SpaceNews, “We’re going to establish the transcontinental railroad of the space.” “We will make moving payloads and satellites from where they are currently in orbit to where they ought to go more affordable.”
TransAstra has developed technology to extract other raw materials and water from the planets, moon, and asteroids since its founding in 2015. TransAstra concentrated on technology for the developing space logistics business before Sercel became part of Momentus in 2019 and then again after he departed the company at the close of 2019.
Omnivore is TransAstra’s fundamental technology, which is a solar thermal rocket engine that can run on water, ammonia, hydrogen, and other fuels. Optical Mining is another invention that the business has patented.
“We shatter the asteroid using concentrated sunlight while concurrently heating the little bits to a temperature whereby they release their volatiles,” Chris Dreyer, the engineering director at the Colorado School of Mines Center for Space Resources, explained. With funding from NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) initiative, Dreyer and Sercel created and tested Optical Mining technology.
TransAstra is creating towering power-producing stations to send solar energy to the moon’s dark regions as part of another NIAC project. According to NASA NIAC program executive, Jason Derleth NIAC awards promote “innovative, technically plausible, advanced innovations that could one day ‘transform the possible’ in the aerospace.”
“NIAC is interested in TransAstra’s work because it aligns with our program’s charter – if TransAstra is successful in its aim of gathering and exploiting in-situ space components, then mining and commercializing them, everything about space might change,” Derleth said. “Having pre-placed spaceship water or fuel for humans would make the far ends of our solar system more available for robotic spacecraft, Mars more accessible for humans, and practically all spacecraft could be constructed to accomplish more science for much less money.”
Sercel is publicly announcing TransAstra’s objectives after years of secretly developing and evaluating technology, in part because the company was accepted into the prestigious Y Combinator accelerator, whose graduates comprise Relativity Space and Momentus. Sercel added that TransAstra is now revealing plans since “we are prepared to deploy Omnivore to the market.” Because of increasing investor concern in the space industry in general and space logistics in particular, Sercel believes the time is ideal.