Wednesday, November 7, 2018

NASA interested in strong commercial satellite-servicing industry in orbit

NASA is working on several projects to mature satellite servicing crosscutting technologies, including Restore-L, a technology demonstration project to utilize a robotic spacecraft to refuel an operational client. Other missions include the Robotic Refueling Mission 3 (RRM3) – which is developing technologies for cryogen – and Raven – a technology demonstration of state-of-the-art relative navigation capabilities.

These projects allow NASA to check important items off of its technology checklist to put humans closer to lunar exploration. NASA plans to infuse Satellite Servicing Projects Division (SSPD)-derived technologies and capabilities to meet the agency’s objectives for science and exploration. Candidate applications for individual satellite servicing capabilities could include on-orbit manufacturing and assembly, propellant depots, observatory servicing, and active orbital debris removal. NASA anticipates that SSPD-derived technologies and capabilities will help unlock numerous new and perhaps unforeseen opportunities in both commercial and government arenas.

In parallel with the development of satellite servicing technologies and the execution of various missions to prove these technologies, NASA is transferring satellite servicing technologies to interested domestic U.S. commercial entities to accelerate the commercial in-orbit robotic satellite servicing industry, as well as to help ensure the serviceability of future satellites. NASA is interested in a strong domestic, commercial satellite-servicing industry that could potentially provide the U.S. government with cost-effective operations.

NASA is hosting a series of industry day meetings to receive data from major SSPD project reviews. The initial industry day was held April 19, 2017, the second industry day was Jan. 30, 2018, the upcoming industry day is scheduled for Dec. 6 at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “This industry day encourages additional transfer of technology being developed by the SSPD,” NASA said in a Special Notice document released Tuesday. “The derived capabilities would facilitate servicing of spacecraft, plus ensure that future spacecraft can be easily serviced.” Future industry days will be held as additional technology progress is made.

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