Secretive space robot startup Arkyd to unveil ambitious plans, backed by big names

NASA Mars Rover vet Chris Lewicki is the president and chief engineer of Arkyd.

[Follow-Up: Space robot venture includes Google’s Page and Schmidt, aims to expand Earth’s resources]

Arkyd Astronautics, a Seattle-area startup led by a NASA veteran and involving some of the biggest names in the commercial space industry, is preparing to unveil its mission “to revolutionize space exploration activities and ultimately create a better standard of living on Earth.”

That’s the description from an event scheduled for next week at Seattle’s Museum of Flight, where the company is expected to talk about its plans publicly for the first time.

The startup’s mission sounds ambitious, but the company has the type of team that could pull it off.

Arkyd’s president and chief engineer is Chris Lewicki, a former senior flight systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who also served as flight director for the space agency’s Spirit and Opportunity Rovers on their missions to Mars, and surface mission manager for the Phoenix Mars Rover.

GeekWire first ran across Arkyd last year, after spotting a job listing for the company. Arkyd’s website remains bare-bones, but its LinkedIn profile says it “develops technology and systems to enable low-cost commercial robotic exploration of the solar system.”

Also involved with the company is Peter Diamandis, best known as the creator of the X Prize Foundation, which runs competitions to spur breakthroughs in space and other areas. Washington state corporations filings list Diamandis as a director of the company.

Arkyd’s chairman is now listed as Eric Anderson, the co-founder of space tourism startup Space Adventures. Anderson is also the CEO of Intentional Software, the tech company founded by former Microsoft executive and space tourist Charles Simonyi.

Simonyi is also participating in the upcoming event, to be held Tuesday at the new Museum of Flight Space Gallery that bears his name. Via email, Simonyi declined to talk about Arkyd’s plans, saying he didn’t want to spoil the unveiling.

Lewicki hasn’t yet returned a phone call seeking comment on Arkyd’s plans.

Arkyd is an example of the growing number of companies developing commercial space technologies, driven in part by the need to fill the void left by the discontinuation of the Space Shuttle program.

Museum of Flight CEO Doug King, speaking to reporters yesterday about the Space Shuttle Trainer’s arrival in Seattle, said the Seattle region is positioned to play a key role in the new era — pointing to companies including Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch Systems, in addition to the plans to be unveiled next week by the team behind Arkyd.