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New space industry emerges: servicing satellites on orbit

New space industry emerges: servicing satellites on orbit

News:

  1. A new space infrastructure and civil Space at a company called Space Systems Loral (SSL) is planning to service two to three dozen satellites in a distant geostationary orbit, some 36,000 km from the earth.

Important Facts:

  1. SSL unmanned spacecraft will be able to latch onto a satellite to inspect it, refuel it, and possibly even repair it or change components, and put it back in the correct orbit.
  2. It as “equivalent to a AAA servicing truck in geostationary orbit.”
  3. Intelsat, which operates 50 geostationary satellites,signed a contract with Space Logistics (SSL) for its Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV).
  4. When it launches in 2019, the spacecraft will attach itself to a broken down satellite, and reposition it in its correct orbit. The MEV will stay attached and use its own engine to stay in orbit.
  5. De-orbiting defunct satellites:
  • Since 2008, France has required satellite operators to take steps to “deorbit” their spacecrafts by programming them to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere in 25 years so that they burn up, according to the French National Center for Space Studies (CNES).
  • When it comes to satellites in geostationary orbits, their end-of-life option is to go farther from the earth to a “graveyard orbit” 200 miles (300 kilometers) further away.
  • A small Japanese company founded in 2013, Astroscale, is developing a system to approach and capture space debris and broken satellites.
  • Airbus’s future “Space Tug,” planned for 2023, is being built to grab old satellites and push them down to 125 miles (200 kilometers) above Earth so they burn up.
  • The number of satellites in space has already risen 50 percent in five years, according to the Satellite Industry Association, and growth continues.
  1. Significance:
  • On-orbit servicing could help cut down on the perplexing problem of mounting space debris.
  • Of the 23,000 space objects counted by the U.S. military, just 1,900 are active satellites.
  • The rest includes nearly 3,000 inactive satellites, 2,000 pieces of rockets and thousands of fragments produced by two key events: the deliberate missile explosion of a Chinese satellite in 2007, and the 2009 collision of an Iridium satellite with an ageing Russian one.
  • Since 2008, France has required satellite operators to take steps to “deorbit” their spacecrafts by programming them to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere in 25 years so that they burn up, according to the French National Center for Space Studies (CNES).
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