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Purdue University Team’s “Sisyphus” Space Tug Design Takes Third Place in 2018 SSPI/SEDS USA Competition

On November 3, 2018 at the annual SpaceVision conference, the Purdue University team was named the third-place winner of SSPI and SEDS USA’s 2018 Competition. The competition, titled “Designing the Robotic Space Tug,” challenged student teams to envision a multi-purpose space tug designed to operate in Earth orbit and cislunar space.

Advising the Purdue team was Ariane Cornell, New Glenn Commercial Sales Director Americas for Blue Origin. We thank her for generously donating time and expertise to the next generation.


The Purdue team accepting their prize with Michael Thompson, competition coordinator for SEDS USA and a former member of winning Purdue University teams, and Dr. Jennifer Dawson, a Promise Award winner in 2016


In a report titled “Designing the Robotic Space Tug,” the Purdue team designed the Sisyphus Tug-Station System. The Sisyphus Tug would have the ability to deorbit and maneuver satellites operating from an orbital station located in LEO as well as target larger pieces of space junk and remove them from heavily populated orbital radii and can be outfitted with a module designed to move supply capsules to the planned Lunar 4 Orbital Platform Gateway (LOP-G).


Sisyphus Space Tug


The Purdue team’s design includes the Sisyphus Tug and its Tug Station, a docking and resupply location that would allow for orbital refueling and serve as a meeting point for cargo shuttling. The Tug Station’s capabilities could be expanded in the future to further improve the Sisyphus Tug’s efficiency as well. The Tug Station includes solar panels for power production and internal argon gas fuel tanks as well as a robotic arm claw system shared with the Sisyphus Tug that allows for easier maneuvering of cargo and the Tug itself. The Purdue team designed the Sisyphus Space Tug and its Tug Station to be fully operational after only one launch via SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy.


Meet the Team

Learn More

You can read the full report of the Purdue University team  here. See a full description of the Designing the Robotic Space Tug competition, conducted in partnership with the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.

 January 24, 2019