Robotic On-Orbit Satellite Assembly Considered to be a Critical Technology for Space Exploration
Bit by bit, NASA is developing new technologies to assemble, refuel and repair satellites in orbit.
It's one of the technology development programs collectively known as the 'Tipping Point' initiative -- a series of public-private partnerships to advance the development of critical space technologies that will advance the goals of robotic and human exploration of the solar system.
Now, Space Systems Loral has been awarded a multi-million dollar contract to develop on-orbit robotic satellite assembly technology.
In a press release announcing the contract, John Celli, the president of SSL, said:
NASA's Tipping Point program enables SSL to qualify new technologies for the commercial market while at the same time providing advances for future NASA missions. Satellites assembled on-orbit using our integrated robotics capability will be capable of higher performance than satellites that can be launched today. An added benefit will be antennas that can be moved and changed during a satellite's mission life for flexibility and to accommodate changing market requirements.
The robotic on-orbit satellite assembly Tipping Point program builds on the DARPA funded Dragonfly study, which was also awarded to SSL. The idea is to take the Dragonfly concept and develop functioning hardware -- basically a ground demonstration here on Earth.
If successful, a separate contract to actually develop flight-ready systems would be put out to bid sometime in the future.
Read Space System Loral's full press release here.