Value of Servicing Satellites in Space

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., May 6, 2019 – Satellites are tremendously isolated — once launched into orbit, they are left alone to do their work until they lose power or age into obsolescence. But what if satellites could be upgraded, refueled or repaired while in orbit?

The fourth report in The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy (CSPS) Game Changer series, On-Orbit Servicing: Inspection, Repair, Refuel, Upgrade, and Assembly of Satellites in Space, explores new on-orbit servicing (OOS) capabilities and what this ground-breaking technology could mean for the future of satellite operation, including the potential cost savings of hundreds of millions to salvage satellites and not replace them.

 “The technological progress we are seeing today in space operations autonomy and robotics will disrupt the traditional paradigm of spacecraft design, acquisition, launch operations and maintenance,” said John Mayberry senior project leader at The Aerospace Corporation and co-author of the CSPS report. “Within the next 5 to 10 years, on-orbit servicing such as routine spacecraft refueling could become a reality, meaning that spacecraft low on propellant could avoid decommissioning and enjoy extended lifetimes.” 

 The potential applications of on-orbit servicing could run the gamut from the removal of space debris to the repair and upgrading of satellite systems while they orbit. The CSPS report considers not only the possible uses of OOS but delves into the technical feasibility, acceptable mission risk levels and business case viability of this game-changing technology. 

While the report acknowledges that there are several possible inhibitors to making on-orbit servicing common across the market, OOS is widely viewed as the most viable path forward for continuing to expand space activities beyond their present limitations.  

 “The economics of space operations are driving the commercial implementation of these new on-orbit servicing capabilities,” said Jamie Morin, executive director of CSPS. “A comprehensive OOS capability is likely to become an economic necessity as market forces push for reduced cost and risk of space activities.” 

To learn more, download the CSPS report at www.aerospace.org/paper/game-changer-orbit-servicing.

About The Aerospace Corporation

The Aerospace Corporation is a national nonprofit corporation that operates a federally funded research and development center and has approximately 4,000 employees. With three major locations in El Segundo, Calif., Colorado Springs, Colo., and Washington, D.C., Aerospace addresses complex problems with agility, innovation, and objective technical leadership across the space enterprise and other areas of national significance. For more information, visit www.aerospace.org. Follow us on Twitter: @AerospaceCorp.

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