This article was originally published in SpaceNews magazine on June 4, 2018.
Space experts believe that in 5 to 10 years, in-orbit services will be so common that satellites will be designed for towing, maintenance or refueling.
“Once technical risks are removed, more people will sign contracts for mission expansion or in-orbit services, which will lower prices,” said JeanLuc Froeliger, Intelsat vice president of satellite operations and engineering at the Space Technology Expo in Pasadena, California. At the end of May. “I look forward to the snowball effect.”
satellite owners, satellite manufacturers, NASA and DARPA are planning a series of demonstrations to demonstrate that the spacecraft can be repaired or refueled in orbit without the need for NASA to commit to providing the space Hubble Telescope An ambitious effort and expensive to serve.
The two largest geostationary communications satellite operators, SES and Intelsat, are taking different approaches to extend the life of their satellites.
The International Satellite Telecommunications Organization and SpaceLogistics, a subsidiary of Orbital ATK, have signed a contract for two mission expansion vehicles, which are scheduled to launch in 2019 and 2020. The mission expansion aircraft will dock to the The customer’s aircraft and will keep them in proper orbit for five years, Floringer said. Rather,
SES is contracting with Space Systems Loral to refuel a propellant tank on a geostationary communications satellite, and SSL plans to launch a robotic vehicle in 2021. SSL also cooperated with NASA to develop RestoreL, a mission satellite that resupplies Landsat 7 Earthobservation, and cooperated with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to send mobile service vehicles into geostationary orbit through the Geostationary Satellite Robot Service Program.
“In the short to medium term, life extension will break down barriers to entry, allow existing operators to expand their market and potentially allow new operators to enter the market by reducing the cost of executing services,” said Joe Anderson, vice president of space logistics. Development and operation. “In the long run, as we implement on-orbit assembly and on-orbit construction capabilities, the paradigm of satellite construction methods will change.
orbital ATK technicians have tested the hardware related to the mission expansion vehicle. Image source: Orbital ATK
Orbital ATK technicians tested the hardware of the mission expansion vehicle. Image source: Orbital ATK
In preparation for the mission recovery, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center spent nearly ten years developing and testing tools and sensors to repair and refuel Satellites, these satellites are not designed for maintenance.
“The goal is to mature the technology needed to serve satellites so that the government can transfer the technology to industry and eliminate some of the risks of these missions,” Goddard Satellite Services Projects Department Said Brian Roberts, a robotics expert at, at the Space Technology Expo.
NASA intends to provide services for satellites in order to extend the life of its spacecraft and pave the way for deep space exploration. Roberts said the “Holy Grail” has reached the point where the spacecraft can repair itself. He added that NASA’s goal is to have ways to assemble other modules or carry out repairs on the way to Mars.
satellite owners and operators want the flexibility provided by various life extension programs. Bryan Benedict, Senior Director of the Government Solutions Innovation Project and
SES, said: “The goal of extending life is not to keep a 15-year satellite in continuous use for 30 years.” “Our goal is to better adapt to the unknown.”
In some cases, communications satellite customers may be reluctant to sign a 15-year contract, but will agree to provide services for another three years. Benedict said at the Space Technology Expo that maintenance vehicles can also drag dead spacecraft out of geostationary orbit or free solar panels or improperly deployed antennas.
Additionally, if satellite manufacturers know that repairs can be performed in orbit, they can simplify some pre-launch activities.
“You spend a lot of time on the ground to ensure that the satellite can work 1,000% of the time,” said Roberts. “If satellite services are more available, you may not spend too much time integrating satellites on the ground and testing them at n degrees, which may allow you to launch science satellites at a more frequent cadence.”