The market for satellite refueling and other in-orbit services may reach $ 3 billion in the next ten years.
This article was originally published in SpaceNews magazine on June 4, 2018. The
satellite business is experiencing a transformation. Rapidly evolving technology and changing customer needs have led operators to reconsider major investments in new satellites and consider other options, such as squeezing more years of service from existing platforms.
This makes this a good time for in-orbit service to arrive.
Sometime in early 2019, the first commercial service spacecraft is scheduled to launch. The mission expansion vehicle built by Orbital ATK on behalf of its subsidiary SpaceLogistics will be the first of several such robotic vehicles. They are preparing to compete for some US $ 3 billion worth of orbital services over the next ten years. year. Carolyn Belle, a senior analyst at Northern Sky Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said the service satellite
in geosynchronous orbit is an “emerging industry” with enormous future potential. The company is considering “alternative compensation or services.” In an uncertain business environment, satellite manufacturers and operators are looking for new ways to manage their fleets and may find life extension services an attractive option.
NSR released the first industry research report on the rail services market in January.
will provide several types of services, the main one being life extension, Belle said. The service vehicles will be docked with satellites for refueling and other resident missions. “Various vehicles are being developed and each type of vehicle provides different functions,” said Bell. The long lifespan of GEO satellites will be the first big opportunity for the service industry, depending on the number of commercial and government satellites that are nearing completion.
credits; “Rail Services Market” from NSR (2018)
credits; NSR (2018)
“Rail Services Market” With the increasing menu of rail service options and technological advancement, “the business case is also evolving,” he says. “In an environment of declining capacity prices, rapid technology change, and uncertain capital expenditures, Inorbit services provide an attractive value proposition for the satellite industry.”
In addition to the extension of the useful life, other services to be provided include out-of-orbit and rescue operations., Maintenance and transformation of satellites. When the satellite is deployed in the wrong orbit or the satellite propulsion system fails, the rescue will take place.
NSR analyst Shagun Sachdeva said: “After years of demonstrations and tests, recent contracts and upcoming missions show signs that the business case for rail service is consolidating.” However, the industry still has obstacles to overcome, requiring government oversight. .
The estimated US $ 3 billion of the entire market is used primarily for life-prolonging jobs. De-orbit or heavy orbit satellites and payload upgrades will be a small part of future work. At least until more advanced autonomous vehicles are implemented, these vehicles can reliably repair solar panels, antennas, or add new ones after the satellite enters orbit.
Belle stated that approximately 153 GEO satellites (mostly commercial satellites) will be target customers. “If the service is available, we will study demand based on the content that the operator is interested in buying.”
‘s interest in inorbit has been established for many years, but the technology is just beginning to show a glimpse of the future. . “Most of the components are tested on the track,” said Bell. The moment is favorable for the service company. “Business participants are affected by falling global capacity prices, concerns about the emergence of non-GEO constellations and concerns about their business potential.”
CEOs and investors are wary of capital expenditures, the biggest of which is the purchase of new satellites. They are looking for ways to save time and do not have to make major financial commitments until the market stabilizes.
“Now, operators are not entirely sure what their market will be in the next 15 years, and what they should replace their satellites with,” Belle said. “How many emerging technologies should they use? If they wait a few years, will there be new capacity available? ”
operators must think more strategically,” he said. This makes them more willing to look for opportunities to extend their lives. In-orbit services can extend the life of satellites designed to last 15 to 18 years from three to five years.
Credit: NSR (2018) “Orbit Services Market”
Credit: NSR (2018) “Orbit Services Market”
Low Earth orbit service satellites may one day become a viable market, but not early. SSL is developing a RestoreL robotic service vehicle for NASA, scheduled to launch in 2020. It will be refueled for satellites in low Earth orbit, but that part of the satellite sector is not yet ready for commissioning.
Sachdeva said: “The market is not as advanced as GEO and it has a very different business case on how to use the service.” A key difference is the shorter lifespan of LEO satellites. “Its relatively low manufacturing and launch costs are another important reason.” Extending the service life may not be a priority for LEO operators, but they may eventually be interested in other applications, such as repositioning and removing orbits.
The next event of concern was the launch of the first orbital ATK mission expansion vehicle MEV1. In December, the company was approved by the Federal Communications Commission to conduct “meeting, approaching and docking operations” with Intelsat901 on the graveyard track.
The industry generally hopes to have a clearer understanding of how the government will permit and supervise these tasks.
The Defense Advanced Projects Agency created a self-regulatory industry organization called the Rendezvous and Service Action Executive Alliance, or Confers. The consortium will propose “rules of the road” for commercial in-orbit activities, such as satellite maintenance and refueling.
The group held its first meeting on May 21 in Marina del Rey, California. DARPA is convening companies involved in satellite services to define best practices and

By Peter

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