GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Satellites are crucial to our everyday lives, but cost hundreds of millions of dollars to manufacture and launch. Currently, they are simply decommissioned when they run out of fuel. However, there is a better way: satellite servicing, which can make spaceflight more sustainable, affordable and resilient. NASA’s satellite servicing technologies are opening up a new world where space robots diagnose, maintain and extend a spacecraft’s life.
At NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, a 10 by 16-foot robot tests satellite servicing capabilities on Earth before they’re put to use in space. Sitting on top of the six-legged hexapod is a partial mock-up of a satellite. Mounted to a panel close by is an advanced robotic arm. Together, these robots practice a calculated dance. As the hexapod moves, it mimics microgravity as the robotic arm reaches out to grab the satellite.
At NASA, we’re working to prove the combination of technologies necessary to robotically refuel a satellite in orbit that was not designed to be serviced. The same technologies developed for the Restore-L project will advance in-orbit repair, upgrade and assembly capabilities.
The ground demonstrations take place in Goddard’s Robotic Operations Center. The hexapod robot was built for NASA by Mikrolar, a New Hampshire-based company.
NASA’s Restore-L project — which aims to demonstrate on-orbit satellite servicing by refueling the Landsat 7 satellite — is running behind schedule due to funding and technical issues, according to an audit from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
Despite a last minute threat of a veto, President Donald Trump signed an $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill on Friday that boosts NASA spending by about $1.1 billion to $20.7 billion.
So, with the fiscal year nearly half over, let’s take a closer look at NASA’s FY 2018 budget, which the Administration had tried to cut. The table below lays out the numbers from the omnibus bill, the Administration’s request and the FY 2017 budget.
GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — One test changed the fortunes of an advanced 3-D imaging lidar system now baselined for NASA’s Restore-L project that will demonstrate an autonomous satellite-servicing capability.
Officials with NASA’s Satellite Servicing Projects Division, or SSPD, have officially baselined the Kodiak system — formerly known as the Goddard Reconfigurable Solid-state Scanning Lidar, or GRSSLi — to provide real-time images and distance-ranging information during Restore-L. This project will demonstrate how a specially equipped robotic servicer spacecraft can extend a satellite’s lifespan — even one not originally designed for on-orbit servicing.
PALO ALTO, Calif. – December 20, 2017 – SSL, a business unit of Maxar Technologies (formerly MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.) (NYSE: MAXR; TSX: MAXR) and a leading provider of innovative satellites and spacecraft systems, announced today that the Restore-L mission to provide satellite servicing in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) has completed an extensive NASA review called the Mission Preliminary Design Review (PDR) and is on track to meet its next development milestone, called Key Decision Point C (KDP-C).
The on-schedule progress and successful reviews for this mission, which will develop and demonstrate key technologies essential to future NASA missions and commercial activities, are tangible evidence of SSL leadership, experience, and commitment to space innovation.
PALO ALTO, Calif., August 8, 2017 (Space Systems Loral PR) —Space Systems Loral (SSL), a leading provider of innovative satellites and spacecraft systems, today announced that it successfully completed the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) for NASA’s Restore-L mission to provide satellite servicing in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). With the completion of the PDR, Restore-L is proceeding on schedule to the next phase of development and its launch in 2020.
Ignoring the Trump’s Administration’s fiscal year 2018 (FY 2018) budget request, the House Appropriations Committee has voted to boost NASA’ spending to $19.88 billion, including significant increases to the space agency’s Exploration and Planetary Science programs.
The appropriations bill is an increase of $779.8 million over Trump’s requested budget of $19.09 billion. It would increase NASA’s budget by $218.5 million over the $19.65 billion the space agency is receiving in FY 2017.
NASA’s Exploration program, which includes the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft, would be boosted by $226 million to $4.55 billion under the House measure. The administration had requested $3.93 billion, a cut of $390 million under current spending.
NASA would receive $19.653 billion for fiscal year 2017 under an Omnibus spending bill released on Monday by Congressional appropriators, an increase of more than $600 million requested by the Obama Administration. NASA received just under $19.3 billion in FY 2016.
The bill was released seven months into the 2017 fiscal year. The government has been operating on continuing resolutions since the year began last Oct. 1.
DARPA Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) Program Fact Sheet
National security increasingly demands a high degree of flexibility on orbit, including an ability to repair and upgrade satellites in geosynchronous orbit (GEO). The technical challenges of performing such functions in GEO are significant, but success could substantially revolutionize military and commercial space operations, lower satellite construction and deployment costs, and improve satellite lifespan, resilience, and reliability—precisely the kind of high risk/high reward opportunity that DARPA was created to pursue. RSGS is a research and demonstration effort that aims to speed the arrival of capabilities such as high-resolution inspection; correction of otherwise mission-ending mechanical anomalies such as solar array and antenna deployment malfunctions; assistance with relocation and other orbital maneuvers; and installation of attachable payloads, enabling upgrades to existing assets. (more…)
Four members of Congress have sent letters to DARPA asking the defense agency to review a satellite servicing program they believe duplicates other efforts by a commercial company and NASA.
“We are concerned that DARPA’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellite (RSGS) program is duplicating commercial investment and capability in violation of National Space Policy and contrary to the best interests of taxpayers,” reads one letter signed by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA).
GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Since 2009, the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office (SSCO) has been building upon the heritage of satellite servicing and repair that began with NASA’s successful servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope. Recently, SSCO became the Satellite Servicing Projects Division (SSPD), continuing its growth from one office with multiple demonstrations to a division of three offices and two projects.
The creation of SSPD is more than a name change. “The growth of satellite servicing projects and demonstrations necessitated the evolution of the office into a division,” said Ben Reed, deputy division director for SSPD. SSCO was a vital bridge from human-based shuttle servicing to robotic-based multiple-orbit servicing. “It was the foundation that will allow us as a division to expand our technologies for multiple stakeholders – from on-orbit refueling to large aperture telescope assembly in space, and NASA’s Journey to Mars.”
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has awarded the Restore-L Spacecraft Bus and Support Services contract to Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, California. Restore-L is a robotic spacecraft equipped with the tools, technologies and techniques needed to service satellites currently in orbit.
The contract has a firm-fixed-price and includes a three-year core period and a two-year indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity portion. The total maximum value of the contract is $127 million.