Running head: SATELLITE SERVICING AND REUTILIZATION 1

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Nov 13, 2013 (3 years and 9 months ago)

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Running head: SATELLITE SERVICING AND
REUTILIZATION

1






Satellite Servicing and Reutilization

Joseph Gruber

Embry
-
Riddle Aeronautical University


SATELLITE SERVICING AND REUTILIZATION

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Abstract

There are many reasons why a satellite launched into Earth orbit would no longer be utilized and
left non
-
operational. Several of these reasons include

the inherent risk of place satellites in space
including the risks of launch failures, deployment failures, and technological failures over the
life of the satellite. Eventually though all satellit
es reach the end of the lifespan and this is where
researc
hers are attempting to determine the feasibility of capturing these satellites for repair,
reuse, or reutilization.
This analysis will review several concepts of on
-
orbit satellite servicing
and reutilization including the Defense Advanced Research Project

Agency’s Phoenix program.

Several challenges lay ahead for on
-
orbit servicing considering that most satellites were never
designed to be maintained once on orbit and the tools to perform maintenance or reuse have yet
to be developed. The market demand for

on
-
orbit servicing is increasing however in turn
increasing the interest of space agencies and organizations around the globe.


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Satellite Servicing and Reutilization

There is a certain inherent risk when launching a satellite into orbit. The solar array m
ay
not deploy properly, the satellite may be left in the wro
ng orbit than was desired, the satellite’s
attitude may be out of control or any number of risks that come along with launching objects into
space. Designing, building, and launching a satellite i
s far from cheap and can cost upwards of
between $50 million dollars and $500 million dollars. For a satellite to fail before it has even had
the opportunity to perform the mission it was intended for is a major detriment to space
organizations.

Even more

so, beyond failure of a satellite at launch, there is always the potential for a
satellite to fail at anytime during its lifetime whether from increased radiation exposure,
micrometeoroid impacts, or technical failures. Eventually, just like any technolog
ical product, all
satellites will at some point fail and become unusable. From satellites that have failed at launch,
to those that have failed at some point during their lifetime, to those satellites that have achieved
their intended lifetime and mission,

there are a large number of satellites around the Earth that
are merely mindless orbiting providing no benefit.

Here on Earth, when a product fails or a product no longer works, components can be
recycled, serviced, and reutilized. This can be seen in eve
rything from the automobile industry to
the technology industry. Even the National Aeronautical and Space Administration’s (NASA)
Space Shuttle had components that could be serviced and reutilized such as the solid rocket
boosters. With the billions of dol
lars spent worldwide each year on satellite services, could the
servicing and reutilization of components from failed and non
-
functioning satellites already in
Earth orbit provide a base structure for new space systems in turn greatly reducing the costs to

satellit
e providers and their customers?

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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the research and
development office of the United States Department of Defense, is beginning to address this
question through the Phoenix Satellite Servicing p
rogram. Under the Phoenix program, DARPA
is looking to determine if communication satellites currently in geosynchronous orbit around the
Earth could be harvested and re
-
used by Earth
-
operated robotics. Through Phoenix, “
DARPA
seeks to hasten the insertion

of emerging technologies into space system

development at much
lower cost”

(DARPA, n.d., para. 4) by redefining the traditional process of satellite design,
development, and deployment.

The concept of

on
-
orbit
servicing and reutilization

of satellites

is
by far a new idea

but it
is quickly becoming a concept that is entering the realm of possibility.

NASA has proven
through the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and Palapa B2 repair missions as well as the
construction of the International Space Station (ISS) th
at servicing of spacecraft and satellites is
a viable option. With advancements in technology and improving access to space, commercial
organizations and federal agencies, such as DARPA, are looking to develop and demonstrate the
technologies, tools, and p
rocesses to perform these repairs remotely utilizing robotic equipment
launched into space. NASA has stated, “we are faced with the need to more fully exploit the
flights systems already launched” (NASA, 2010) and with an increase of abandoned satellites
l
ittering Earth orbit creating potential collision hazards, satellite servicing and reutilization is
quickly becoming a priority of space organizations around the world, especially the United
States.

Application

The application of on
-
orbit satellite servici
ng and reutilization is a tough challenge.
Products on Earth that are meant to be serviced, re
-
used, and/or reutilized generally require
SATELLITE SERVICING AND REUTILIZATION

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dexterity and a human hand to access serviceable or reusable components. Almost without
exception, satellites and space
craft are not meant to be serviced on
-
orbit and have not been
designed with servicing or reutilization in mind. This presents a challenge in designing on
-
orbit
satellite servicing robotics especially considering that human
-
like dexterity is a hard feature
to
replicate in robotics.


Additional challenges will also have to be considering including that most retired
satellites left in a ‘graveyard’ orbit are tumbling. Any servicing platform approaching a
tumbling satellite will need to carefully synchronize wi
th the satellite while also optimizing
fuel utilized to maintain synchronization.

Under the DARPA Phoenix program, the concept is to develop a new class of satellites
similar to nano
-
satellites, called satlets. These satlets would be integrated into a pay
load orbital
delivery system (PODS) that would launch into geosynchronous orbit as a secondary payload to
a commercial satellite. Once in orbit, the PODS

would be released from the commercial satellite
and transfer to a separate satellite servicing satelli
te becoming part of the servicing satellite’s
inventory of tools. The servicing satellite would then be directed to transfer to a decommissioned
or failed satellite’s orbit where the manipulator arms onboard would remove the satlets from the
PODS for integ
ration onto the failed satellite or for repair to it.

The preliminary milestone mission for the Phoenix program will occur in 2015 where the
program plans to demonstrate the ability to capture an existing retired satellite, physically
separating its antenn
a using robotic tools controlled from Earth, and then reutilized as a new
space system operating independently of the retired satellite.

Once this demonstration has
concluded that satellite reutilization is a possibility, it is expected that DARPA will pus
h forward
SATELLITE SERVICING AND REUTILIZATION

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with gaining access to other retired and non
-
functioning satellites for use in military intelligence
and communication scenarios.

Technical issues aside, the economic

and legal

factors around satellite servicing and
reutilization must be considered.

As noted earlier in this analysis, the cost of designing,
developing and launching a satellite is hefty and upward of $500 million dollars. For any
satellite,

servicing and reutiliza
tion platform to be considered by the commercial market a clear
business case must be made. Satellites that are unique in nature or those that are larger and
inherently cost more will be candidates for servicing and reutilization however this may not be
th
e case for all satellites leaving a murky business venture. But with the “potential for sharing the
cost of an on
-
orbit servicing infrastructure across multiple target satellites allow[s] a business
case to be made for robotic servicing in certain markets.
” (Long, Richards, & Hastings, 2012, p.
966)

Of course, the follow
-
on question then becomes who is legally allowed to access a dead or
failed satellite in space.

Design and Development

Development of new technologies and services will be required to establ
ish
the capability
of satellite servicing and reutilization
. Special tools will need to be created to be able to access
areas
that were never meant to be accessible
by either humans or robots
.

Throughout the space industry, several concepts for satellite
servicing, reuse, and
reutilization are being considered. This market demand for such a capability has resulted in many
educational institutions and federal research laboratories across the globe providing several
different and varied concepts.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is just one of the space
organizations around the globe investigating the potential capability of satellite servicing. ESA is
looking to determine the feasibility of a Geostationary Service Vehicle (GSV) that would park
SATELLITE SERVICING AND REUTILIZATION

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its
elf in orbit and be available for use by paying satellite operators. The design

of the GSV calls
for a spacecraft with almost 3 tons of fuel to allow for almost five years of orbital maneuvering
or “25 re
-
orbiting missions, 10 inspections, 3 mechanical int
erventions, and 2 dead satellite
removals”. (Peuter, Visentin, Fehse, & Elfving, n.d., p. 35) The spacecraft would include
rendezvous sensors, robotic arms, and still to be developed tools on the top surface of a
hexagonal base allowing the propulsion syst
em to remain on the bottom and out of the way
during servicing.

Viva
S
at
, a joint venture between ATK and US Space LLC, is looking to understand the
feasibility of a simpler concept. The ViviSat concept includes a Mission Extension Vehicle
(MEV) “that safel
y connects to an orbiting satellite in order to provide supplemental attitude and
propulsive capabilities without disruption to the client satellite’s operation.” (ViviSAT, 2011,
para. 2)
Outside of failed and malfunctioning satellites, a large majority of

satellites are
decommissioned simply because they have run out of fuel while still being operational in all
other aspects. In all actuality, the capability that ViviSat is looking to provide to the satellite
services market is comparable to aerial refueli
ng. An artist’s concept of the ViviSat proposed
satellite
-
servicing spacecraft can be seen in
Figure
1

Artist

s Concept of Proposed Satellite
Servicing Spacecraft
.

SATELLITE SERVICING AND REUTILIZATION

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Figure
1

Artist

s Concept of Proposed Satellite Servicing Spacecraft

Credit: MacDonald, Detwiller and Associates LTD.

As a federal program, the DARPA Phoenix program design and development is being
sourced to various aerospace cont
racting and manufacturing organizations. ATK has been
solicited by DARPA to provide the primary satellite bus for the Phoenix program. This core
component of the Phoenix satellite will “support robotic rendezvous and proximity operations
and a grapple
-
and
-
repair robotic technology”. (Hill, 2012, para. 2) This bus will be modified
from an existing ATK satellite bus to support the rendezvous and robotic operations. ATK has
also received a contract to develop the Satellite Capture Tool (SCT) and Aperture Grasp

and
Severing Tool (AGST) that will be utilized by the servicing platform’s robotic functions. The
SCT and AGST will be placed on the satellite bus’ end effectors in essence creating two robotic
arms for servicing and reutilization efforts.
Several other a
erospace organizations have been
SATELLITE SERVICING AND REUTILIZATION

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selected for various other Phoenix components including Honeybee Robotics for the telerobotic
end effectors and Aurora Flight Sciences for the development of the satlets that will be part of
the Phoenix’s ‘toolkit’.

Operati
onal Overview and Deployment

Operationally, the DARPA Phoenix program is in the earliest of stages with only one
demonstration mission currently planned for 2015 while likely it will slip to 2016. When
launched the Phoenix servicing and reutilization satel
lite platform will enter geosynchronous
orbit will it will meet up with a pre
-
selected, approved commercial satellite.

Several concepts of deployment of satellite serving platforms are currently being
researched with the greatest challenges being rendezvou
sing
with the satellite to be serviced as
well as how to maintain proximity to a tumbling, out of control satellite. An example of the
deployment of an operational satellite servicing and reutilization platform can be seen in
Figure
2
. To be able to meet these challenges, NASA and DARPA have looked to research institutions
to develop computational algorithms that would allow the servicing satellite to autonomously
rend
ezvous and dock with the malfunctioning satellite. Additionally, the concept of a safety
ellipse, as shown in
Figure
3

Safety Ellipse
,
has been developed to “provide a
n efficient
configuration from which the servicer spacecraft can repeatedly fly around the customer to
gather situational awareness data: collect range, bearing, and pose measurements,
and allow

the
relative navigation filter sufficient time to converge.”
(NASA, 2010, p. 59)



SATELLITE SERVICING AND REUTILIZATION

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Figure
2

(Xu, Liang, Li, & Xu, 2011, p. 105)

SATELLITE SERVICING AND REUTILIZATION

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(NASA, 2010, p. 60)

Conclusion

Many challenges exist in the path forward for on
-
orbit satellite servicing yet

these
challenges are being solved and overcome at an increasingly steady rate. From computer
algorithms to rendezvous with a malfunctioning satellite to the primary tools needed to perform
repairs to satellites, the space and satellite industry are well o
n their way to providing a satellite
servicing and reutilization capability. Several challenges still need to be resolved however
including how to gain access to the internal workings of a satellite that was never meant to be
maintained yet as satellite ma
nufacturers begin to build satellites with long
-
term maintenance in
mind we will see this challenge eve
ntually reduced.

O
ne of the biggest challenges facing the service and reutilization

concept

will be the
business case and legal implications surrounding

this capability.

The vision as laid out by ESA in
their GSV concept with the repair satellite being leased by commercial satellite operators may
Figure
3

Safety Ellipse

SATELLITE SERVICING AND REUTILIZATION

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end up being the wisest choice when it comes to a business case scenario. On
-
orbit servicing

will be driven b
y the needs of the satellite operators and resulting benefits to those
” (Kreisel,
2012, p. 3) and currently these needs and benefits are not truly understood leaving a weak
business case outlook. Additionally, the legal implications of a satellite servicin
g organization
attaching to and performing repairs to a satellite must be fully understood. If a satellite is left for
dead in a graveyard orbit, does international maritime law apply to the salvage of the satellite?
These questions still need to be resolv
ed while in the early infancy of satellite servicing and
reutilization research and development.

Future Outlook

The DARPA Phoenix program will be a great catalyst for future innovation in the arena
of on
-
orbit servicing of satellites. Currently projected t
o launch in late 2015 to early 2016, the
program is incredibly optimistic. For starters, the program has yet to receive an authorized slot in
geosynchronous orbit
, a process that

by it
s
elf

can

take upwards of three years.
More so, the
selection of a commer
cial satellite, which is to be re
-
used, is still undergoing source selection
with a choice likely to be seen in early 2014.
Additionally, many of the tools and capabilities that
Phoenix will need once on
-
orbit have yet to be developed or even realized

with

contracts and
solicitations only occurred in the later half of 2012.

Many offshoots of the technology and innovation gains from on
-
orbit servicing of
satellites will likely be seen in the next five to ten years. A prime example of the future outlook
of th
e on
-
orbit servicing capability market will be refueling of satellites and spacecraft. For many
satellite operators, their satellites are left for dead in a graveyard orbit while still having many
available years left for operation solely due to the satell
ite running out of fuel. By providing the
capability of resupplying a satellite with several years of additional fuel, satellite operations can
SATELLITE SERVICING AND REUTILIZATION

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increase their cost
-
benefit ratio while seeing an overall reduced cost for their satellite systems.
Future innov
ations with on
-
orbit servicing capability will also likely see increased demand from
military agencies as an offensive weapon to dismantle or reduce the capability of satellites
launched by foreign nations. Once the capability has been developed for on
-
orb
it satellite
servicing, reuse, and reutilization many new customer demands are likely to focus this
upcoming, innovative area of the space industry.


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References

DARPA (n.d.). Phoenix.

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
. Retrieved

November

29,
2012
, from http://www.darpa.mil/our_work/tto/programs/phoenix.aspx

Hill, J. (2012, August 7). ATK Vice
-
President Jim Armor outlines DARPA Phoenix work.
Satellite Today
. Retrieved December 3, 2012, from
http://www.satellitetoday.com/ATK
-
Vice
-
President
-
Jim
-
Armor
-
Outlines
-
DARPA
-
Phoenix
-
Work
-
Part
-
2_39254.html

Kreisel, J. (2012, November 19). On
-
orbit servicing of satellites (OOS): its potential market &
impact.
7
th

ESA Workshop on Advanced Space Technologies

for Robotics and
Automation ‘ASTRA 2002’
. Retrieved

December 3, 2012,

from
http://robotics.estec.esa.int/ASTRA/Astra2002/Papers/astra2002_1.4
-
1.pdf

Long, A., Richards, M., Hastings, D. On
-
orbit servicing: a new value proposition for satellite
design and o
peration.
Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, 44(4)
, 964
-
976.
http://dx.doi.org/
10.2514/1.27117

NASA (2010, October). On
-
orbit satellite servicing study project r
eport.

Satellite Servicing
Capabilities Office
. Retrieved

December

1, 2012, from
http://ssco.gs
fc.nasa.gov/images/NASA_Satellite%20Servicing_Project_Report_0511.pdf

Peuter, W., Visentin, G
., Fehse, W., Elfving (n.d.). S
atellite servicing in GEO by robotic service
vehicle.
Satellite Servicing
, 33
-
39. Retrieved from
http://www.on
-
orbit
-
servicing.com/p
df/GSV_2.PDF

ViviSAT (2011). Satellite life extension services.
ViviSAT
. Retrieved December 1, 2012 from
http://www.vivisat.com/?page_id=10

SATELLITE SERVICING AND REUTILIZATION

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Xu, W., Liang, B., Li, B., & Xu, Y.

A universal on
-
orbit servicing system used in geostationary
orbit.
Advances in S
pace Research, 48(1)
, 95
-
119.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.asr.2011.02.012