KMI advances space debris removal efforts

Kall Morris Inc, a Marquette-based space solutions company, is advancing to the next level in its technology development and commercialization efforts, thanks to $5 million in U.S. Department of Defense contracts and private investment.

The company, launched by three Northern Michigan University alumni in 2019, is developing the technology to rendezvous, retrieve, and relocate objects in orbit to safeguard space. With these contracts and investments, KMI continues to make strides in the field of In-space Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing (ISAM). 

Co-founders of KMI: Troy Morris, Austin Morris, and Adam Kall. Kall Morris Inc is among the growing number of startups and companies in the U.P. pursuing innovation in a variety of endeavors, including space, technology, software and robotics. 

The company’s commitment to innovation, combined with the
dedication of its technical team led to the successful development and validation of groundbreaking technologies that support ISAM, company officials said.

“With these concurrent developments aligned with our upcoming orbital experiment, our work with the Department of Defense elevates our abilities to enable capabilities for space in multiple domains and functions,” said Troy M. Morris, one of the company’s co-founders and CEO.

What’s happening: The company, founded by Northern Michigan University alumni and friends Adam Kall and brothers, Austin and Troy Morris, has secured $5 million in Department of Defense contracts and private investment. The program funding sources are:

A SpaceWERX STTR Phase II award of $1.5 million for in-space non-destructive capture and release. 

Another SpaceWERX STTR Phase II award of $1.5 million, for secondary payload attachments

A Department of the Air Force Direct-to-Phase II award of $1.25 million to support the development of the Laelaps spacecraft, which will eventually host the company’s debris removal technologies.

The remaining $750,000 comes from other investors, which Kall Morris did not name. 

About KMI: The three founders have a shared interest in cleaning up space and protecting humans from the detrimental effects of orbital debris. KMI’s goal is #KeepingSpaceClearForAll, in removing the old vehicles (legacy objects) before disaster strikes. KMI has 15 employees, ranging from advanced theoretical science modeling and prediction to engineers focused on physical models, manufacturing, and advanced capabilities. 

Reducing the amount of space waste being produced is already happening around the world, but there's unfortunately a critical mass already in orbit that, unless removed, could continue breaking apart and start striking current and active vehicles. KMI seeks to capture pieces of debris with a spacecraft that uses software to characterize debris, and hardware to capture debris. By relocating to in-space stations for reuse, or moving them to a graveyard orbit, which does not interfere with any other orbit, the company will have effectively eliminated that piece of debris

Since its founding, KMI has received many awards, including the Renaissance Venture Capital Winter 2021/2022 Hotlist; Center on Rural Innovation Virtual Pitch Event Winner, 2021; Michigan SBDC Best Small Business, 2022 and 2023; and Space WERX Orbital Prime, 2022, and International Space Station National Lab Award to Demonstrate Tech Aboard the ISS, 2023.

What the new investment means: KMI’s selected USSF Phase II initiatives consist of two groundbreaking projects, REACCH for advanced agnostic in-space capture and release and Asteria for secondary payload attachments and advances those technologies in the USAF Direct to Phase II by further developing the Laelaps spacecraft designs to host the critical technologies.

Project partners: The University of Southern California is the partner on the REACCH effort; Stanford University and Tangram Flex Inc., for the Asteria effort; and EMAG Technologies Inc. of Ann Arbor, as well as Orbion Space Technology in Houghton, for the Laelaps spacecraft development.

“Space debris is a huge problem that will require big ideas to solve,” said Brad King, CEO at Orbion Space Technology. “We are excited that KMI has included Orbion in their vision to clean up the global commons and ensure everyone can continue to benefit from all the ways that space enhances our lives here on Earth.”

What’s next: With Phase II underway, KMI is poised to achieve new milestones in the realm of space debris management, “bringing humanity one step closer to a safer and more sustainable orbital environment,” the company said in a news release. The projects are sponsored by AFWERX, a component of the Air Force Research Laboratory.

“At every opportunity and advantage we earn, I’m proud of the
brilliant team of professionals from NASA, US Air Force, US Army, industry, and across academia that have chosen to join our team as Space Rangers, and move KMI closer to Keeping Space Clear For All,” Troy M. Morris said.
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