Technological progress in space operations autonomy and robotics will disrupt the traditional paradigm of spacecraft design, acquisition, launch, operations, and maintenance. Within the next 5 to 10 years, routine spacecraft refueling could become a reality, and spacecraft low on propellant could avoid decommissioning and enjoy extended lifetimes. A new generation of cooperative spacecraft designed specifically for on-orbit servicing (OOS) could upgrade their own hardware every few years—a need that has been identified by the commercial, civil, and military satellite sectors. This would end the current paradigm of relying on satellites with decades-old hardware and technology, then having to launch replacements to modernize them. The future impacts of OOS—from satellite acquisition to space architecture perspectives—are explored herein. While the market and growth trends for OOS could be temporarily dampened by the small, inexpensive, and disposable satellite designs currently being considered for low Earth orbit (LEO) constellations, many geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) satellite operators are finding an increasing need to extend satellite lifetimes. Longer-term, LEO constellations have also warranted an interest in OOS architecture and practices.
Technology Market Readiness
On-Orbit Servicing Demonstration Phase • Routine use of OOS on ISS • Orbital Express’ successful 2007 demonstration • NASA, DARPA, and the commercial sector are expected to demonstrate initial operational capability of robotic OOS within the next five years.
Image Credit: DARPA
Strengths Weaknesses OOS provides capabilities to refuel, repair, upgrade, and enhance Increased OOS activities may lead to operational failures that existing and future satellites. Servicers can also actively remove could damage client spacecraft and/or generate debris in high- debris. value orbits such as GEO. Next-generation satellites and space architectures can become Small spacecraft with short lifespans are cheaper to replace than more flexible and cheaper to build and operate. OOS can enable service. the assembly of large structures such as telescopes and habitats in space.
APRIL 2019 1 CENTER FOR SPACE POLICY AND STRATEGY Introduction are currently underway to standardize and regulate the Satellites are uniquely alone in their environment. They market.3 are launched with everything they need for their entire mission, from initial operational capability (IOC) to end of What Is On-Orbit Servicing? life. This has been the norm of civil, commercial, and Widely agreed-upon OOS terminology does not currently military spacecraft design since Sputnik was launched on exist, but it can play a crucial role in establishing a cross- October 4, 1957. Over time, this led to fully redundant industry-unified understanding of various aspects and designs and very long mission life. With some exceptions, activities of OOS. Fortunately, the Consortium for the ability to physically upgrade, refuel, or repair satellites Execution of Rendezvous and Servicing Operations once they are on orbit does not currently exist. (CONFERS),4 NASA, DOD, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), and others are However, limited on-orbit servicing (OOS) activities have working on this, and will likely establish a formal lexicon been performed since the early days of space endeavors.1 soon. Gemini and Apollo missions demonstrated rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO). Skylab and Solar OOS refers to on-orbit activities conducted by a space Maximum Mission (SMM) demonstrated on-orbit repairs vehicle that performs up-close inspection of, or results in to fix critical components, with SMM taking advantage of intentional and beneficial changes to, another resident a modular design using orbital replacement units (ORUs). space object (RSO). These activities include non-contact Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was serviced five times, support, orbit modification (relocation) and maintenance, which included replacement of circuit boards. The refueling and commodities replenishment, upgrade, repair, International Space Station (ISS) was assembled on orbit assembly, and debris mitigation. A space vehicle and is continually replenished with propellant, supplies, possessing equipment specifically designed to perform and new modules to enhance its capabilities and provide servicing operations is called a servicer. new science opportunities. These activities were all performed by humans or with significant human-in-the- An RSO receiving OOS is called a client. A client can be loop presence. However, the Defense Advanced Research cooperative or non-cooperative in nature. A cooperative Projects Agency’s (DARPA’s) Orbital Express (OE) client offers features designed to aid in acquisition, demonstrated a full end-to-end robotic satellite servicing tracking, rendezvous, mating, and/or servicing activities, mission that included autonomous docking, fuel transfer, with information (position, velocity, health/status, etc.) and ORU change-out—essentially removing humans from transfer between the servicer and client occurring via two- the equation. way crosslinks or ground contacts. An example of a cooperative client is a commercial resupply vehicle While OOS activities have mostly been performed by designed to mate with the ISS. A non-cooperative client government agencies—with NASA being the most prolific does not offer features designed to aid in acquisition, developer and user of the technology—the commercial tracking, rendezvous, mating, and/or servicing activities, space sector is beginning to move toward robotic servicing and there is no information transfer between the servicer as an integral part of its space architectures. and client. Examples of non-cooperative clients are legacy satellites, derelict rocket bodies, and pieces of orbital The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and the Space Liability debris. The degree of cooperability lies on a spectrum, and Convention of 1972 are the current international laws usually a client is neither entirely cooperative nor non- governing OOS, though not explicitly. Domestically, the cooperative. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration On-Orbit Servicing Capabilities (NOAA) have provided ad-hoc operating licenses needed OOS covers a wide range of capabilities: for OOS activities.2 Although this paper focuses on OOS market maturity and technology adoption, legislative and Non-contact support refers to operations—near the policy drivers will also impact market adoption rates of client—by the servicer that enhance the client’s OOS and should be monitored closely, as various efforts capabilities or the servicer’s knowledge of the client. Non-
APRIL 2019 2 CENTER FOR SPACE POLICY AND STRATEGY contact support is the only OOS function that does not mitigation will typically be performed in high-value-orbit require the servicer to mate with the client. Examples of regimes such as GEO or LEO. non-contact support include inspecting the client to assist in anomaly resolution, and remotely enhancing the client Innovators and Market Leaders: On-Orbit with a new capability using a wireless connection. Servicers Robotic OOS is not a new concept. In fact, the enabling Orbit modification and maintenance occurs when a technologies have been steadily progressing over many servicer performs propulsion and attitude control functions decades. The tools, procedures, and systems required for for the client. Orbit modification, sometimes referred to as robotic OOS are rapidly reaching maturity. Government relocation or repositioning, is when the servicer spatially and commercial entities are currently developing robotic moves the client to a predetermined position and/or orbit. systems that, in the next five years, will conduct OOS Orbit maintenance, or assistance, is when the servicer activities on operational systems to extend or enhance performs the stationkeeping and attitude-control functions their mission capabilities. This section will discuss the for the client. development of the OOS market as well as current and planned OOS missions. Refueling and commodities replenishment is a service that supplies commodities naturally depleted by the client The Chicken-and-Egg Problem: Cooperative over the course of its mission. Commodities include fluids Satellites vs. Satellite Servicers such as propellants, pressurants, or coolants, but could One of the primary barriers to the commercial servicing also include other items such as dispensable objects. market has been the OOS business case “chicken-and- egg” problem. Satellite owners have been unwilling to pay Upgrade is the replacement or addition of components to for features to make servicing easier, because there have a client to enhance the client’s capability. Some examples been no operational servicers. Moreover, operators may are replacing a flight processor with a more capable one only require such a service for a small portion of their via ORUs, or installing a new payload into an existing existing fleet. Yet, companies interested in offering OOS structural, electrical, data, or thermal interface on the need an adequate, addressable market to justify the client. Upgrade can overlap with assembly, depending on substantial capital investment required to develop the operation. servicers capable of performing operations on legacy satellites. Repair is the replacement of components or correction of mechanical failures on a client to restore capability. Overcoming this problem has been a challenge, but rapid Examples of this include replacing a failed battery with a progress is being made in developing a servicing market. new battery and assisting a solar array that failed to Fortunately, some satellites have required OOS to perform properly deploy. their missions and have thus overcome the economics of developing servicing technologies. For example, HST and 5 Assembly is an activity in which two or more objects ISS both required OOS and so significant efforts and intentionally combine to create a new space object or add investment were made to service these missions. an object to enhance an existing space vehicle. Examples Investments from NASA, DARPA, and commercial include constructing a space station or large telescope, entities are driving down the cost of developing robotic combining satlets to create a satellite, and adding a servicers. As the technical risks of robotic servicing are reflector dish to an existing satellite. Assembly can retired and the cost of building servicers is reduced, civil overlap with upgrade, depending on the operation. and commercial entities are beginning to incorporate OOS in future concepts. Debris mitigation refers to a set of activities to locate, identify, and/or reposition RSOs, including but not limited NASA is developing future concepts and architectures— to unresponsive space vehicles incapable of moving such as the Lunar Gateway and manned Mars missions— themselves, rocket bodies, or orbital debris. Debris that will require significant use of OOS and is looking to
APRIL 2019 3 CENTER FOR SPACE POLICY AND STRATEGY the commercial sector to provide those services, much as today’s systems and architectures. Figure 1 (see page 7) they do today for the ISS. Commercial satellite operators lays out the expected path of OOS maturation and recognize that their current fleets last longer than their adoption. A description of the chart is as follows: design lives and find it increasingly hard to compete with terrestrial systems that enjoy rapid technology refresh The far-left column shows key technology areas that cycles. They are concluding that OOS will be vital for have been undergoing research and development for maintaining their current businesses into the future. decades. Many of these technologies have direct Companies looking to exploit cislunar (and beyond) terrestrial applications, such as robotic arms for development have business plans that are largely or manufacturing and medical use, having received entirely reliant upon a robust OOS infrastructure. ample funding for their development. Other technologies are specific to space environment The servicing industry has reached a tipping point at applications, such as fluid transfer systems for which a commercially viable OOS capability is becoming operation in microgravity, and are more reliant on a reality. Advancement of technology, demonstration entities such as NASA for technology maturation. missions that reduce risk, and the prospect of customers Current technologies are all at or above Technology throughout industry are driving the development of an Readiness Level 6 and are expected to fly on OOS commercial market. operational servicers within the next five years.
Recent, Ongoing, and Upcoming OOS Missions The second column shows past and present OOS and Services activities. While many previous servicing applications End-to-end robotic OOS was first demonstrated by OE in have gone unmentioned in this graphic (especially 2007. Since OE’s successful mission more than a decade international activities), it is key to note the extensive ago, a significant amount of work has been done to history of OOS. Also listed in this column are the advance the technologies and develop the business cases planned NASA Restore-L mission, DARPA’s Robotic to establish a viable OOS market. Today, many companies Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) and government organizations are still exploring OOS. mission, and the introductory commercial servicers, to With the success of several demonstration missions over include the Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV) and the past few years, commercial initial operational InsureSat, all of which contribute to OOS capabilities. capability (IOC) is rapidly approaching. Table 1 highlights many concepts being explored and recent demonstration The third and fourth columns show expected future successes throughout the space industry. This table is not paths of market growth as OOS becomes pervasive an exhaustive list of all concepts but does highlight many and mature. Commercial entities will be both the of the technology and market leaders throughout the space providers and benefactors of servicing for a wide industry. range of capabilities that will emerge and build from initial market entrants. It is expected that Game Changer Lifecycle: Market and Technology manufacturers of larger spacecraft systems will Phases and Triggers transition to modular design practices to accommodate Robotic OOS advancements have reached the tipping and enable OOS for their customers. NASA is looking point of technical feasibility, acceptable mission risk to continue development of large structures in space, levels, and business case viability. Civil and commercial such as the Lunar Gateway,6 that will require large entities, inside and outside the U.S., are beginning to field module assembly in lunar orbit—as well as future prototypes and are nearing IOC for robotic servicers and large flagship telescopes, such as the Large Ultraviolet on-orbit commercial services. These near-term activities Optical Infrared (LUVOIR) telescope,7 that are being are now influencing future spacecraft system design and designed for OOS from the beginning, with regular space segment architectures. In fact, plans for future space servicing and upgrading baselined into the operations. systems are beginning to look drastically different from
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Table 1: On-Orbit Servicing Market Leaders
Image source: Airbus Image source: Altius Image source: Astroscale Image source: Busek Airbus is exploring LEO and GEO Altius’ Bulldog conceptual spacecraft Astroscale’s Space Sweeper satellites Busek’s Satellite on an Umbilical Line inspection, life extension, orbit will provide a disposal service to the will help clean up space by performing (SOUL) concept is a small spacecraft modification, upgrade, and debris proposed Mega LEO constellations. active debris removal end-of-life tethered to a host to perform removal with its (on-orbit operations) disposal services. inspection, spacecraft repair, debris O. CUBED services and Space Tug removal, and other on-orbit services. concepts. Chandah Space Technologies Effective Space (London, iBOSS Maxar (Houston, Texas): UK) & IAI (Lod, Israel): (Aachen, Germany): (Westminster, Colorado): InsureSat12 Space Drone13 iBOSS14 Dragonfly15
Image source: CST Image source: Effective Space Image source: iBOSS GmbH Image source: SSL Chandah Space Technologies (CST) Effective Space and Israel Aerospace Intelligent Building Blocks for On-Orbit Maxar is developing an on-orbit has received a license to operate its Industries (IAI) are teaming up on their Satellite Servicing and Assembly assembly capability, Dragonfly, to remote sensing inspection satellite, Space Drone conceptual spacecraft, (iBOSS) is using standardized augment and assemble satellites and InsureSat, in GEO. set for launch in 2020,16 to perform interfaces and modularity to design other space infrastructure on orbit. life-extension services.17 and manufacture reconfigurable spacecraft for on orbit servicing and assembly. Made In Space, Inc. (Mountain View, California) Additive Manufacturing Facility18 Archinaut19 Fiber Optics Manufacturing20
Image source: Made In Space Image source: Made In Space Image source: Made In Space MIS’ AMF, launched in March 2016, is currently MIS’ Archinaut concept is designed to manufacture MIS’ fiber optic cable facility, launched in September providing the only 3D-printed, hardware- and assemble large-scale structures on orbit. 2017, is manufacturing ZBLAN in microgravity, with manufacturing service in space, onboard the ISS. unique properties for terrestrial use.
APRIL 2019 5 CENTER FOR SPACE POLICY AND STRATEGY Table 1: On-Orbit Servicing Market Leaders
Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems (Dulles, Virginia) Mission Extension Vehicle21 Mission Robotic Vehicle25 CIRAS26
Image source: Northrop Grumman Image source: Northrop Grumman Image source: Northrop Grumman Two Mission Extension Vehicles (MEVs), set for The Mission Robotic Vehicle (MRV) is a next-gen The Commercial Infrastructure for Robotic Assembly launch in 201922 and 2020,23 will execute contracts MEV and will also be able to provide inspection, and Services (CIRAS) concept will build on the MEV with Intelsat for life-extension services.24 upgrade, and repair services. and MRV to enable assembly and servicing of large- scale structures. NASA: Public-Private Partnership (DARPA, USA): RemoveDEBRIS Consortium*: ISS Commercial Resupply27 RSGS28 RemoveDEBRIS29
Image source: NASA Image source: DARPA Image source: SSTL NASA’s ISS Commercial Resupply Services DARPA’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous The RemoveDEBRIS mission, launched in June program has enabled companies like SpaceX and Satellites (RSGS), set for launch in 2021, will 2018, demonstrated debris-removal technologies as Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems to develop perform inspection, repair, relocation, and upgrade. a precursor to the ESA’s e.Deorbit initiative. and generate revenue from rendezvous and A commercial partner is currently TBD. *The RemoveDEBRIS Consortium includes Airbus, Surrey Satellite proximity operations systems for logistics services. Technology, Ltd. (SSTL), ArianeGroup, Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM), Inria, Innovative Solutions in Space (ISIS), Surrey Space Centre, and Stellenbosch University Civil and Government National University of Harbin Institute of Defense Technology Technology (China): (China): DARPA (USA): ESA (EU): Aolong-130 Tianyuan-131 Orbital Express32 e.Deorbit33
No Image No Image Available Available
Image source: DARPA Image source: © ESA - D. Ducros Aolong-1, launched in June 2016, Tianyuan-1, launched in June 2016, Orbital Express, launched in March 2007, The e.Deorbit initiative aims to demonstrated technology and demonstrated technology and demonstrated autonomous rendezvous, robotically deorbit ESA objects to procedures for small debris removal. procedures for on-orbit refueling. docking, refuel, and upgrade. demonstrate OOS technologies. NASA (USA) ISS34 Lunar Gateway35 Restore-L36 RRM37,38 & Raven39
Image source: NASA Image source: NASA Image source: NASA Image source: NASA The ISS, a football field-sized station The Lunar Gateway, the next space Restore-L, set for launch in late 2022, The Robotic and Refueling Mission assembled on orbit, is continually station, will be assembled in lunar will refuel and reposition Landsat 7— (RRM) and Raven missions, currently resupplied with fuel and upgraded with orbit starting in 2022 with the launch a satellite launched in 1999. hosted on the ISS, are demonstrating new technology and payloads. of the power and propulsion element. on-orbit refueling and robotic vision technology.
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Figure 1. The anticipated maturity curve and technology maturation path of OOS.
This figure also shows OOS trigger events that may technology components. Commercial resupply spur movement along the maturity curve. missions to the ISS are also included in this category due to the consistent need to perform Research and development triggers highlight RPO.27 In the next few years, many civil and events that may initiate a directed effort among commercial missions will demonstrate robotic the community to mature technology and market OOS and begin to offer commercial services to adoption. NASA’s efforts to explore space have enhance existing satellites. If these missions are been the driving factor for OOS development to successful, the space industry will likely see a date. Their human spaceflight lunar missions and rapid growth of OOS capabilities resulting in space stations have required significant amounts reduced operating cost—which includes servicer of RPO and servicing activities on a consistent use in satellite insurance contracts to mitigate or basis to be successful. Recent interest by repair failures in lieu of replacing spacecraft. commercial companies has resulted in additional development efforts to extend existing satellite Maturity triggers will signal when the OOS lifetimes and provide more flexibility to satellite technology has moved into a mature phase within owners and operators in designing their satellite the space market. This is highlighted by a architectures and developing their business plans. pervasive OOS capability, similar to how we operate and maintain cars or airplanes today. Growth triggers include completion of Satellites will no longer be launched with a demonstration activities, which matures lifetime of fuel; they will be refueled throughout
APRIL 2019 7 CENTER FOR SPACE POLICY AND STRATEGY their lifetimes. Satellites will be designed such as those currently being explored by the large LEO modularly so that components or even payloads constellations proposed by OneWeb, SpaceX, and many may be added post-launch. Reliability others.44 Even DARPA is weighing whether a large LEO requirements may be relaxed, resulting in a lower constellation may make sense for DOD applications.45 In development and assembly, integration, and test these architectures, the role for OOS could be diminished, cost due to the reliance of on-orbit repairability. but commercial companies are still finding that there may be a viable OOS market with large LEO constellations. Finally, decline triggers will signal when the OOS For instance, Altius Space Machines’ BullDog™ concept capabilities may start becoming obsolete. Even is a deorbiter for failed satellites in LEO.9 small, cheap satellites can benefit from some degree of OOS, so it is unlikely that new The OOS maturity curve presented here is a projection of technologies or architectures will result in a current market trends into future architectures. For now, greatly decreased use of OOS, though the types of the OOS capabilities appear to be on the path laid out. servicing being performed will likely evolve over time. Only a dramatic decline of space activities Market Drivers: On-Orbit Servicing Impacts on would negate the need for OOS. the Cost of Space Activities, Spacecraft Design, and Space Architecture While the OOS technology has matured rapidly and is at a While OOS is still in its infancy, the potential market point where robotic servicing of satellites is technically implications, even in the near term, are enormous. Today, feasible, many market issues persist. The near-term no commercial servicers exist, and only government development of the OOS market relies on the success of entities have performed OOS. That trend is changing, near-term programs as well as the future of space however. Chandah Space Technologies, SpaceLogistics architectures. LLC (a wholly owned subsidiary of Northrop Grumman), and numerous other companies are working to bring The announcement of Maxar’s departure from DARPA’s commercial services to the space market. Over time, the RSGS program40 is being viewed by some as a sign that capabilities of the OOS market will expand, growing from the OOS market may not be ready for commercial the near-term MEV, Restore-L, and RSGS-like investment. The slowdown in the commercial capabilities, into complex space architectures that rely on communications GEO market, a failure of the refueling, upgrading, assembly, and manufacturing. WorldView-4 satellite41, and limited corporate resources are the more likely causes of Maxar’s decision to depart These market capabilities are especially noteworthy due to from the program, rather than a technical or business case the recently announced failure of Intelsat-29e.46 Intelsat impasse.42 DARPA is currently considering how to move suffered a fuel leak followed by a communication system forward with the program and has released an industry failure, resulting in the loss of a satellite 3 years into its survey for new partnership opportunities.43 15-year design life. An on-orbit servicing infrastructure could have played an important role in the aftermath of If near-term OOS demonstrators suffer failures, either these failures and potentially could have helped to salvage technical or programmatic, the market may shy away from the space vehicle, which will ultimately cost hundreds of OOS, at least until more successful demonstrations occur. millions to replace. Inspection could have helped diagnose This would delay the adoption of OOS and require greater failure mechanisms and provided critical data inputs to investments. However, OOS is widely viewed as the most failure review findings and insurance payouts. Orbit viable path forward for continuing to expand space modification could have (and may in the future) moved activities beyond their present limitations. Near-term Intelsat-29e out of the GEO belt, removing a large piece of failures will only be a temporary setback for progressing debris from a high-value orbit. Repair could have toward a mature OOS market. potentially fixed the propellant leak and/or communication system failure, restoring some of the satellite’s capability, It is also possible that future space architectures may though it is unlikely this capability would be ready in time heavily emphasize small, cheap, “disposable” spacecraft, to save this satellite.
APRIL 2019 8 CENTER FOR SPACE POLICY AND STRATEGY Mission Extension Services: Inspection, Orbit and riskiest parts of the mission, relying on servicers to Maintenance and Modification, and Refueling cover failures thereafter. Satellite services in the next 5 to 10 years will likely be limited to inspection, orbit modification and maintenance, Future Spacecraft Designs: Modularity, and refueling of legacy non-cooperative satellites. RSGS Repairability, and Upgradability will contain some additional capability to perform basic As the success of OOS materializes, satellite designs will repair or attachable upgrade functions.47 The next begin to incorporate cooperative servicing features such as generation of MEVs48 and the European Space Agency’s standard quick-disconnect refueling valves; machine Clean Space Initiative49 missions are also envisioned to vision-friendly fiducials; grapple fixtures; and common have a similar capability. However, the market impact of structural, power, data, and fluid interfaces. Spacecraft these capabilities is more limited than that of extending currently being acquired are already studying spacecraft lifetime via refueling or taking over propulsion serviceability features, and by the end of the 2020s, it is and attitude-control functions. likely that all large satellite acquisitions will require cooperative designs for servicing. Satellites living beyond their design life has become the norm, and operators are reluctant to decommission While designing for full serviceability means a change in satellites simply because they are running low on fuel. current satellite design practices, it has been shown that Some estimates show that more than 50 percent of GEO modular designs can be cost-neutral compared to satellites will experience operational impacts due to fuel traditional highly integrated designs when considering depletion.50 Government and commercial operators can more than a single satellite purchase.53 The increased cost find value in almost any space asset if they can still of modular system design is largely offset during the communicate with it. At the Space Tech Conference, assembly, test, and integration phases of the acquisition May 2018, both SES and IntelSat commented on their cycle. Modular designs tend to increase satellite dry mass ability to monetize value from aging spacecraft, and how compared to highly optimized designs, but those weight both companies were looking to OOS life-extension penalties can be recovered using the benefits of OOS. capabilities as a part of their business models going forward.51 Modular satellites designed for upgradability and refueling have distinct advantages. They can be launched with less With the introduction of mission-extension services, fuel than needed for the entire mission, saving hundreds of satellite owners can delay capital expenditures, maintain kilograms in launch weight. This could also increase the assets in valuable GEO slots, and prolong the life of launch vehicle throw-weight margins. The ability to add or productive and profitable space vehicles. Also, if satellite replace components on orbit (via standard interfaces) life is not limited by onboard consumables, a secondary means that satellites can be designed with less market in older-but-functional spacecraft will likely redundancy. Furthermore, satellites can launch without a emerge, similar to the used car market. Companies or non-critical component or payload if their production is governments unable or unwilling to purchase new late, thereby maintaining launch schedules—OOS can satellites instead might buy used ones. install the missing element later. This enhanced flexibility may also significantly alter the paradigm of spacecraft The satellite insurance market will also see significant mission assurance, reducing the need to perform lengthy impacts due to the introduction of servicing capabilities.52 and costly test campaigns by relying on the ability to Insurance companies can use servicers for inspection to repair and replace failed components on orbit. determine whether claims worth hundreds of millions of dollars must be paid. They may also use servicers to fix As modularity and standardized interfaces become more deployment anomalies or refuel satellites to replenish pervasive throughout the satellite manufacturing industry, propellant expended due to launch insertion anomalies, costs will inevitably decrease. Standardized plug-and-play thereby restoring capability at less cost than paying a full capabilities have benefited many industries, such as home claim. Over time, satellite owners might self-insure their computers. Desktop computers are highly modular constellations and use insurance to cover only the earliest systems with hardware and software standard interfaces.
APRIL 2019 9 CENTER FOR SPACE POLICY AND STRATEGY Individual computer components can be purchased and Next Generation Space: On-Orbit Manufacture assembled by relatively inexperienced people. Failed or and Assembly of Spacecraft outdated components can be easily swapped with new As servicing activities become more complex, and space components without having to buy an entirely new architectures begin to incorporate serviceability, the computer. Standard interfaces enable a wide variety of demand for OOS will dramatically increase as the cost of options and reduce both consumer costs and entry barriers performing servicing decreases. On-orbit manufacturing within the industry. The same trend is likely to occur with and assembly will likely result from this sort of robust 5 spacecraft as modular designs become more common. The space economy. Satellites manufactured and assembled in definition of industry-wide standard interface space will have significant technical advantages over specifications, similar to a Universal Serial Bus (USB), satellites manufactured and assembled on the ground and would likely reduce the barriers of entry, increase then launched into space. competition, and decrease satellite acquisition costs. Assembly of structures in space has been demonstrated by Companies such as iBOSS, along with many others the ISS, a football field-sized structure assembled by the throughout the space industry, are looking to define international space community over two decades. NASA standardized interfaces and develop modular spacecraft. is also exploring assembly for its next generation of large At the Space Tech Conference in May 2018, both SES and telescopes; missions larger than the James Webb Space IntelSat commented on their desire to purchase satellites Telescope (JWST) exceed launch vehicle fairing volume with 30-year lifetimes, but with payloads that could be restrictions. Assembly, however, is not just limited to upgraded every 5 years.51 This would be entirely reliant on large structures. NASA and industry are working on satellite servicing, as an extremely long-lived satellite bus concepts that include partial assembly of satellites on would require routine maintenance and refueling, similar orbit, which entails replacing deployable structures with to terrestrial systems. Regular payload reconfiguration or assembled structures to maximize packaging 54 upgrade would absolutely require a servicer unless the efficiencies, as well as assembly of entire “traditional” 55 upgrades could be performed entirely through software satellites from modular components. updates, which is unlikely to be sufficient over a 30-year On-orbit assembly offers many benefits—the most time span. obvious being freedom from the tyranny of fairing 5 A satellite that can replace or upgrade its payload every constraints. Spacecraft must fit within the volume 56 few years has the potential to significantly reduce the cost restrictions of the launch vehicle fairing, as well as of space activities and even open new markets. Long-life within the mass-to-orbit capability of the system. platforms that provide power, propulsion, pointing, Spacecraft launched in pieces and assembled on orbit thermal control, and other satellite bus functions could would be much less limited by their size or mass, much as host payloads for a variety of customers, which would the ISS could never have been launched in one piece. change over time, creating a revenue stream for the Satellites with large deployable structures, such as the platform owner and reducing the cost of space operations JWST, currently have significant design restrictions due to for the payload operators. These types of platforms may the launch vehicle fairing volume limitations, but future lead to a new business model for space activities such as systems could launch extremely large satellite apertures leasing vs. buying satellites, similar to homes and offices. separately or in pieces for on-orbit assembly. Leasing time on a space platform would be significantly Small satellites would also gain significantly from on-orbit cheaper and have far less risk than building and launching assembly. Currently, one of the biggest drivers in satellite a highly integrated spacecraft for one dedicated mission. design is survival of the launch environment. Being A comprehensive OOS capability is likely to become an launched on a rocket involves significant accelerations, economic necessity as market forces push for reduced cost vibrations, and mechanical shocks. An integrated system and risk of space activities. As servicing becomes must be built to survive these environmental factors, but pervasive and the cost of space access is reduced, these environments are only present for a few minutes of a additional capabilities will become all the more feasible. satellite’s multi-year lifetime. If a satellite could be broken
APRIL 2019 10 CENTER FOR SPACE POLICY AND STRATEGY down into modules, packaged individually, and assembled Acronyms on orbit, the structural design could be greatly simplified. AIAA American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics In addition to assembly, the space industry is looking CIRAS Commercial Infrastructure for Robotic toward on-orbit manufacturing as having enormous Assembly and Services potential for utility much closer to home. For example, companies like Made In Space, Inc. are exploring the CONFERS Consortium for Execution of Rendezvous and manufacturing of materials in space for terrestrial Servicing Operations applications.57 Many companies are looking at mining ice CST Chandah Space Technologies water from various celestial bodies and converting it into DARPA Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency propellant (LH2/LOX) to be sold as a commodity. Eventually, 3D-printing techniques could become DOD Department of Defense sophisticated enough to print electronics or even an entire ELSA-d End-of-Life-Service by Astroscale spacecraft. A satellite manufactured on orbit would look demonstration significantly different from one manufactured on the ESA European Space Agency ground; the former could take advantage of materials that cannot be exposed to air, avoid the structural limitations of EU European Union being built in a standard gravity environment, and be FCC Federal Communications Commission configured in virtually limitless sizes and shapes. Even GEO geosynchronous Earth orbit satellites built terrestrially in a modular fashion and assembled on orbit would look significantly different from HST Hubble Space Telescope those manufactured and built entirely on orbit. Large truss IAI Israel Aerospace Industries structures and apertures that can be printed on orbit are iBOSS Intelligent Building Blocks for On-Orbit 58 currently being explored for demonstrations. Satellite Servicing and Assembly
Conclusion IOC initial operational capability OOS is at a tipping point, and while NASA will continue ISIS Innovative Solutions in Space to need servicing for the ISS, Lunar Gateway, and other ISS International Space Station concepts, the economics of space operations are driving the commercial implementation of OOS capabilities. In JWST James Webb Space Telescope response to this market demand, OOS will continue to LEO low Earth orbit mature as multiple commercial satellite companies plan to LH2 liquid hydrogen offer services in the next few years. As a result, civil and commercial satellite owners and operators are beginning LOX liquid oxygen to explore how to leverage these capabilities to enhance LUVOIR Large Ultraviolet Optical Infrared their existing constellations, and how to optimize and MEV Mission Extension Vehicle prepare their next generation of spacecraft for the coming paradigm shift. Although more sophisticated and longer MIS Made In Space lasting, satellites today are the same lonely outposts that NASA National Aeronautics and Space have existed since the Sputnik era. In contrast, satellites Administration launched a decade from now will have servicing NOAA National Oceanic and Atmospheric companions and be designed for this communal Administration environment.
APRIL 2019 11 CENTER FOR SPACE POLICY AND STRATEGY O. CUBED on-orbit operations engineering and aeronautical science and engineering OE Orbital Express from the University of California, Davis and a master’s degree in astronautical engineering from the University of OOS on-orbit servicing Southern California. ORU orbital replacement unit John P. Mayberry is a senior project leader with RPO rendezvous and proximity operations extensive experience in launch, ground, and space RRM Robotic Refueling Mission operations including systems engineering, modeling, and RSGS Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous cost assessment. Mayberry has a bachelor’s degree in Satellites mechanical engineering from the University of Utah. RSO resident space object Jay P. Penn is an Aerospace Fellow with extensive SCEM Swiss Center for Electronics and experience in launch systems, solar electric propulsion, Microtechnology on-orbit servicing, and systems engineering. Penn has a SMC/AD Advanced Systems and Development bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Rutgers Directorate University. SMM Solar Maximum Mission About the Center for Space Policy and Strategy SOUL Satellite on an Umbilical Line The Center for Space Policy and Strategy is dedicated to SSL Space Systems Loral shaping the future by providing nonpartisan research and strategic analysis to decisionmakers. The Center is part of SSTL Surrey Satellite Technology, Ltd. The Aerospace Corporation, a nonprofit organization that advises the government on complex space enterprise and Acknowledgments systems engineering problems. The authors would like to thank Advanced Systems and Development Directorate (SMC/AD) branch chief The views expressed in this publication are solely those of Kenneth Hampsten for his continued support and Rebecca the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect those of The Reesman for her invaluable help on RPO and OOS topics. Aerospace Corporation, its management, or its customers.
About the Authors For more information, go to www.aerospace.org/policy or Joshua P. Davis is an engineering specialist providing email [email protected] support to various national security customers including development of high-power solar-electric propulsion and © 2019 The Aerospace Corporation. All trademarks, service marks, and trade on-orbit servicing concepts and architectures for DOD names contained herein are the property of their respective owners. Approved applications. Davis has bachelor’s degrees in mechanical for public release; distribution unlimited. OTR201900236
APRIL 2019 12 CENTER FOR SPACE POLICY AND STRATEGY References
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