Free Newsletters - Space News - Defense Alert - Environment Report - Energy Monitor
. Space Travel News .




ROCKET SCIENCE
Orbiting Gas Stations for Satellites
by Staff Writers
Bethesda MD (SPX) Oct 31, 2012


NASA appears to have the most active servicing program at the moment. Preliminary work on a technology demonstrator, called the Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM), is underway on the International Space Station. Space Shuttle Atlantis delivered it during the shuttle program's last mission.

One of the things that makes space applications so expensive is the fact that we cannot service satellites once they get to orbit. The moment a satellite leaves the ground it is destined to survive, or not survive, based solely on what it is carrying and how well it operates. If all of the subsystems work properly, then its expect performance is realized for as long as its propellant lasts. Once the propellant is depleted, the mission is over.

At least this has been the way space operations have worked since 1957. We all have thought about the advantages of being able to repair and refuel these satellites. If only we had a service station in orbit for fixing and refueling spacecraft, the overall cost of using space could drop dramatically.

Now, NASA is developing the technology to build Earth-orbiting 'service stations' that may one day use robotic technology to repair and service satellites. After 55 years of space flight experience, it is about time someone took on this serious and important challenge.

Engineers at the Kennedy Space Center are working with the Goddard Space Flight Center to develop concepts that will lead to high-technology "gas" pumps, robotic mechanics and "tow" trucks for satellites in space. This capability is particularly attractive for servicing large geostationary satellites.

These spacecraft represent a number of space applications including communications relays that serve tens of millions of customers around the world. They are very complex and extremely expensive to build and launch.

Typical lifetimes run up 15 years, but when the propellant is depleted, their usefulness usually ends. If there were a service station in geostationary orbit, satellite lifetimes might be extended for a fraction of the cost of replacing these birds.

The idea of providing such services has been around for decades, but little has been accomplished so far. NASA and private sector companies are now trying to advance the technologies and systems that will hopefully lead to the reality of space servicing. There is plenty of incentives for both NASA and aerospace companies to forge ahead.

If an economical solution can be found, there should be a great deal of business for a satellite servicing system. The key is to find a solution that represents low-cost-per-satellite-services, i.e., a cost that is much lower than the cost of replacing satellites.

Remember, satellites that need servicing are usually those that have been in orbit for some time, thus, representing reduced value as compared to a new satellite that contains the latest technology and capabilities. So, one will have to make a compelling argument for servicing versus replacement.

The key to a successful satellite servicing business seems to be the capacity to service multiple satellites with a single repair/refueling satellite, because each servicing satellite will likely cost about as much as a satellite that is to be serviced.

The most important servicing function appears to be refueling geostationary birds. There are roughly 200 active such birds. Approximately 15 of these run out of propellant each year. If these 15 could be refueled, then lifetimes can be greatly extended.

This is good business for a refueling company, but bad news for satellite manufacturers. Nevertheless, competitiveness, innovation and the profit incentive will surely find a winning solution, sooner or later.

NASA appears to have the most active servicing program at the moment. Preliminary work on a technology demonstrator, called the Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM), is underway on the International Space Station. Space Shuttle Atlantis delivered it during the shuttle program's last mission.

The RRM was designed by the same team that developed instruments and astronaut tools for Hubble servicing missions. The RRM has four tools that cut and manipulate wires, unscrew caps, open and close valves and transfer fluids.

NASA's next step is to study and develop Technology Readiness Levels, (TRLs), for a fully robotic maintenance vehicle that could service satellites, including those that were not originally intended to be serviced. Eventually, NASA hopes to create specific servicing spacecraft with their own navigation systems, enhanced robotic arms, tools and a supply of propellant.

.


Related Links
Launchspace
Rocket Science News at Space-Travel.Com






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





ROCKET SCIENCE
NASA Selects Green Propellant Technology Demonstration Mission
Washington DC (SPX) Aug 17, 2012
NASA has selected a team led by Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corporation of Boulder, Colo., for a technology demonstration of a high performance "green" propellant alternative to the highly toxic fuel hydrazine. With this award, NASA opens a new era of innovative and non-toxic green fuels that are less harmful to our environment, have fewer operational hazards, and decrease the complexi ... read more


ROCKET SCIENCE
Japan Plans to Launch New Carrier Rocket in 2013

EUTELSAT 21B and Star One C3 Set For Ariane 5 November Launch

Launcher assembly begins for Arianespace's seventh Ariane 5 mission in 2012

Payload preparations begin for Arianespace's next Soyuz flight from French Guiana

ROCKET SCIENCE
NASA Rover's First Soil Studies Help Fingerprint Martian Minerals

Curiosity on Mars sits on rocks similar to those found in marshes in Mexico

Continuing Work With Scoops at 'Rocknest'

Baumgartner: Mars travel a waste of money

ROCKET SCIENCE
Study: Moon basin formed by giant impact

NASA's LADEE Spacecraft Gets Final Science Instrument Installed

Astrium presents results of its study into automatic landing near the Moon's south pole

European mission to search for moon water

ROCKET SCIENCE
Keck Observations Bring Weather Of Uranus Into Sharp Focus

At Pluto, Moons and Debris May Be Hazardous to New Horizons Spacecraft During Flyby

Sharpest-ever Ground-based Images of Pluto and Charon: Proves a Powerful Tool for Exoplanet Discoveries

The Kuiper Belt at 20: Paradigm Changes in Our Knowledge of the Solar System

ROCKET SCIENCE
New Study Brings a Doubted Exoplanet 'Back from the Dead'

New small satellite will study super-Earths for ESA

Most Planetary Systems are 'Flatter than Pancakes'

Glitch could end NASA planet search

ROCKET SCIENCE
Orbiting Gas Stations for Satellites

ORBITEC's Rocket Engine Soars Above the Mojave Desert

First Space Launch System 'Pathfinder' Hardware Nearing Completion

S. Korea suspends rocket launch

ROCKET SCIENCE
China to launch 11 meteorological satellites by 2020

China makes progress in spaceflight research

Patience for Tiangong

China launches civilian technology satellites

ROCKET SCIENCE
Whizzing Asteroid Turns Rocket Scientists' Heads

Lost asteroid rediscovered with a little help from ESA

First Evidence of Dynamo Generation in an Asteroid

Asteroid fragments could hint at the origin of the solar system




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement