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Notional Robotic Servicing Mission

NASA's SSCO is studying a conceptual mission that would debut a robotic servicing vehicle with the capability to access, repair and refuel satellites that were not originally designed to be serviceable. Over the years, SSCO has examined the feasibility of such a mission for satellites in geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) and also lower Earth orbit (LEO).

This concept would bring
a gas pump, mechanic, and
tow truck to satellites in space.

Why Service Satellites?

Located approximately 22,000 miles (35,400 kilometers) above the Earth, geosynchronous Earth orbit, or GEO, is one of the busiest highways in our solar system. About 400 satellites commute on it each day, providing such essential services as weather reports, cell phone communications, television broadcasts, government communications and air traffic management.
An artist concept shows the notional servicing vehicle servicing a client
An artist's concept shows the notional servicing vehicle (right) servicing a client (left).

Low Earth orbit, or LEO, is the orbital highway for many satellites providing Earth observation and weather tracking. LEO has the benefit of being the easiest orbit to access.

Refueling and maintaining these costly assets could keep them operating longer in space, giving government and commercial stakeholders more value from their initial investments and potentially delivering significant savings in spacecraft replacement and launch costs.

A capability to service these satellites could help make space greener and more sustainable. Broken and drifting satellites take up valuable real estate and pose a risk to their space neighbors.

Satellite servicing technologies are more than just a way to fix satellites: they are a building block for deep-space exploration and discovery. With these robotic capabilities in its tool belt, NASA could be better equipped to undertake tasks such as assembling an observatory or habitat in space, catching up with an asteroid, or fixing a spacecraft en route to Mars.

Development Work

To support such a potential Notional Robotic Servicing Mission, SSCO has been conducting an aggressive development campaign to mature technologies in uncharted territories. Efforts include:

Useful Links

RESTOREA notional servicer's arms precisely peel back a client's thermal blanket, one of the first steps in robotic servicing. (Artist's concept)