+ 11.03.2011 (subsequently updated) - Request for Information: Development of an On-Orbit Robotic Servicing Capability for Spacecraft
+ 08.14.2012 - Announcement of Systems Engineering Review
+ 01.15.2013 - Request for Information: Restore Partnership
NASA's SSCO is studying a conceptual mission that would debut a robotic servicing vehicle with the capability to access, repair and refuel satellites in geosynchronous Earth orbit, or GEO—assets that were not designed to be serviceable.
To support such a potential robotic servicing mission, SSCO has been conducting an aggressive development campaign to mature technologies in uncharted territories. Efforts include:
Located approximately 22,000 miles (35,400 kilometers) above the Earth, 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.
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 GEO 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.
|A notional servicer's arms precisely peel back a client's thermal blanket, one of the first steps in robotic servicing. (Artist's concept)|