We have lived in a generation of 'one and done' spacecraft, up until now. Barring a few notable exceptions, spacecraft launch alone, operate alone and are decommissioned alone. In an average year, several billion dollars’ worth of satellites that could be refueled or repaired are retired because there is no way to service them in space.
On 30th January 2018, NASA will host a satellite servicing industry day at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, as part of ongoing efforts to change that paradigm. The all-day meeting will focus on technology for building in-orbit servicers and incorporating compatible servicing features and devices on future satellites.
A new era is upon us
NASA continues to develop satellite servicing technologies to make refueling, fixing and upgrading satellites in space possible. NASA’s Restore-L project will demonstrate technologies for rendezvous, inspection, repair and refueling of a client satellite in orbit. These technologies will allow fleet managers to call on robotic mechanics to diagnose, maintain and extend the lifespan of their assets.
Key to NASA’s plan for making satellite servicing ubiquitous is the transfer of servicing technologies to interested US companies, in tandem with development, to help jumpstart a new domestic commercial servicing industry with a robust fleet of servicers.
“NASA recognises the best way to create a competitive market and position the US as the global leader in satellite servicing is through technology transfer,” said Benjamin Reed, Deputy Director of Goddard’s Satellite Servicing Projects Division (SSPD).
The upcoming industry day will offer attendees access to an updated technology catalogue with over 200 items, presentations about the latest technology developments by SSPD subject matter experts and a tour of Goddard’s Robotic Operations Center where the technologies are tested.
Attendees will have access to NASA’s programmatic, technical and operational expertise in satellite servicing with opportunities to engage in discussions about potential public-private-partnerships.
Some technologies NASA will discuss and make available include:
For cooperative servicing, SSPD will offer information about rendezvous/capture decal technology and the Cooperative Service Valve.
In addition to the Restore-L project, SSPD will cover two of its technology maturation projects that use the International Space Station to develop crosscutting servicing technologies - the Robotic Refueling Mission 3 (RRM3), which is developing and demonstrating technologies for cryogen and xenon transfer, and Raven, a technology demonstration of relative navigation capabilities.
The first formal iteration of this technology transfer campaign took place on April 19, 2017. The successful industry day drew about 30 companies interested inSSPD's extensive technology catalogue.