Astrotech Corporation

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Astrotech Corporation
Industry Science & Technology
Founded 1984; 32 years ago (1984)
Headquarters Austin, TX, United States
Number of locations
Key people
Thomas Pickens, CEO
Services Technology Incubator
Number of employees

Astrotech Corporation, formerly Spacehab Inc.,[2] is a technology incubator headquartered in Austin, Texas. Astrotech uses technology sourced internally and from research institutions, government laboratories, and universities to fund, manage and sell start-up companies.

Astrotech Corporation's subsidiaries provide commercial products and services to NASA, the U.S. Department of Defense, national space agencies[who?], and global commercial customers[who?].


Former logo of Spacehab Inc.

Astrotech Corporation[edit]

Astrotech Corporation was established in 1984. Prior to 2009, it was known as SPACEHAB, Inc., a company that provided space habitat microgravity experimentation equipment and services to NASA during the Space Shuttle era. As the Shuttle program came to an end, the company put more focus on its spacecraft processing business, Astrotech Space Operations, Inc. (ASO), its mass spectrometer instrumentation business, 1st Detect, Inc. and its microgravity vaccine development company, Astrogenetix, Inc. In August 2014, the company sold Astrotech Space Operations. In February 2015, the company acquired defect correction software and Astral Images Corp. was created to commercialize government funded satellite imagery processing technology and research into automated image correction and enhancement.


Spacehab was founded by Bob Citron with the help and support of CSP Associates from Cambridge, MA. The team from CSP Associates included founder David W. Lippy along with his partners Brad Meslin and Marc Oderman. It was one of CSP's consultants, Dr. David Williamson who conceived of the idea to increase the cargo space on the Shuttles as the primary focus of the Spacehab mission. Early venture capital was supplied by Al Zesiger of BEA Associates in New York City as well as Dr. Shelley Harrison also from New York. CSP Associates and its venture contacts were responsible for raising most of the early seed monies to get the company off the ground and funded.

Spacehab unit in the Space Shuttle

Since its inception in 1984, Spacehab modules and integrated cargo carriers (ICC), which fly nestled inside the cargo bay of the Space Shuttles, have provided 22 Space Shuttle missions with supplemental ferrying and space capabilities, including eight resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS), and seven to the Russian space station Mir.

The inaugural flight of Spacehab’s research double module, which launched January 2003 on STS-107, ended when the Space Shuttle Columbia broke up during re-entry. In January 2004, Spacehab filed a formal claim against NASA for the amount of $87.7 million for the loss caused by the Columbia accident. In February 2003 Spacehab received $17.7 million from the proceeds of its commercial insurance policy, and in October 2004 NASA paid the company $8.2 million.[3] In February 2007, Spacehab dropped all litigation against NASA.

Spacehab Research Double Module in the Shuttle cargo bay.

Spacehab’s most recent hardware design is its permanently deployable Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC), known as the External Stowage Platform (ESP-2). The ESP-2 is currently attached to the International Space Station’s airlock, providing the only permanent, commercial "spare parts" facility for the ISS crew. Another Spacehab ESP, the ESP-3, was deployed during Space Shuttle mission STS-118, on August 8, 2007. Throughout its more than 20-year history, Spacehab has contracted over $1 billion dollars in total sales.

Astrotech Space Operations (ASO)[edit]

The Company changed its name to Astrotech Corporation in 2009 to align the corporate name with the company's core business offering, Astrotech Space Operation.[4] ASO provides all support necessary for government and commercial customers to successfully process their satellite hardware for launch–including planning; construction and use of unique equipment and facilities; and spacecraft checkout, encapsulation, fueling, and transport.

Demonstrating its entrepreneurial strategy, Astrotech Corporation management sold ASO, its state-of-the-art satellite servicing operations, to Lockheed Martin in August 2014.

Products and services[edit]

Chemical detection & analysis[edit]

1st Detect,[5] an Astrotech subsidiary, develops, manufactures, and sells powerful, highly sensitive, and accurate mass spectrometers that can be used in explosive and chemical warfare detection for the Department of Homeland Security and the military. 1st Detect's miniature mass spectrometer technology was sourced from Oak Ridge Laboratory’s chemical analyzer research.

Film restoration, correction & enhancement[edit]

Astral Images[6] sells film to digital image enhancement, defect removal and color correction software, and post processing services, providing economically feasible conversion of television and feature 35mm and 16mm films to the new 4K ultra-high definition (UHD), high-dynamic range (HDR) format necessary for the new generation of digital distribution. Astral Images' core technology is sourced from decades of image research from the laboratories of IBM and Kodak combined with classified satellite technology from government laboratories.

Vaccine development[edit]

Sourced from NASA’s extensive microgravity research, Astrogenetix is applying a fast-track on-orbit discovery platform using the International Space Station to develop vaccines and other therapeutics.

Space operations[edit]

Astrotech Titusville spacecraft processing facility
MESSENGER assembly at Astrotech.

Prior to the 2014 Lockheed Martin acquisition, Astrotech provided both the government and commercial space markets with satellite processing services through its Astrotech Space Operations (ASO) subsidiary located in Titusville, Florida, three miles (5 km) from the Kennedy Space Center. It has more than 150,000 square feet (14,000 m2) of clean room processing space, and services payloads, or satellites, for United Launch Alliance’s Atlas and Delta rocket families, Orbital SciencesTaurus and Pegasus, and SpaceX's Falcon 9[7] launch vehicles. Astrotech owned and operated processing facilities located on Vandenberg Air Force Base at the Western Range in California. Also in California, ASO provides payload processing and facilities management support for the ocean-going Sea Launch program at the Home Port Facilities in Long Beach.


On December 10, 2007, Spacehab released details about its upcoming Advanced Research and Conventional Technology Utilization Spacecraft designed to deliver cargo to, and return cargo from, the International Space Station.[8] The project was later shelved.


External links[edit]