Updated April 13, 2022 at 5:44 PM ET with DIU comments.
WASHINGTON: Defense Innovation Unit seeks to prototype ‘Commercial Refueling Service’ near major space properties in geostationary orbit (GEO), as well as ‘bulk fuel depot’ in any orbital regime I’m trying Solution proposed by April 18th.
“With the tens of thousands of satellites that make up the growing space economy, the ability to efficiently deploy and maintain a fleet of service platforms requires convenient and readily available fuel,” said DIU program manager for the effort. One David Ryan told Breaking Defense. “A sustainable space economy is one that extends the life of these spacecraft, reduces the need for replacement and the accumulation of space debris.”
A request from the DIU RAPIDS Refueling and Fuel Depot issued last week said, “The ability to refuel and maneuver is paramount to safety, stationkeeping and service.” “Future space systems need the ability to maneuver without regret. That is why these spacecraft need to be serviceable and have ready access to a wide variety of commoditized fuels in many orbits.” there is.”
Ryan, nicknamed Merlin, said DIU intends to lead a meaningful demonstration of this capability, emphasizing the need for interfaces and standards that are widely adopted across government and industry to ensure that refueling of spacecraft is possible. We will make it as easy as refueling a car.” here on earth. ”
The project consists of two parts aimed at two different purposes, and the DIU’s request states: ”
A spokeswoman told Breaking Defense that the DIU is a Department of Defense organization designed to facilitate entry into emerging technology areas, with contracts awarded within 60 to 90 days of receiving vendor responses. He said he always aims to publish.
Refueling near GEO
As the first part of the effort, DIU will seek to test commercial providers capable of filling satellites with hydrazine (N2H4) rocket fuel using a “commercial interface” that can be used on both commercial and government-owned spacecraft. is. The goal is to have an in-orbit demonstration “within 18 to 24 months after signing the contract.”
Given the DIU’s mandate, it’s perhaps not surprising that many companies have recently debuted features related to satellite services on GEO.
For example, Lockheed Martin unveiled its Mission Augmentation Port (MAP) interface standard at the Space Foundation Space Symposium last week, which is based on its own composition of Augmentation System Port Interface (ASPIN).
RELATED: Lockheed Martin pushes universal plug-in like USB for satellites.
ASPIN provides both an electrical and data interface as well as a docking mechanism compatible with the host satellite. That interface allows owners/operators to fly service spacecraft and later contract to couple upgraded payloads into old satellite orbits or replace old ones with new ones with different missions. can. Paul Pelley, senior director of advanced programs at Lockheed Martin Space, told his Breaking Defense that APIN is similar to his USB port on modern computers, allowing him to connect and upload multiple types of devices and applications. says.
NASA announced March 3 that the Orbital Service, Assembly, and Manufacturing 1 (OSAM-1) spacecraft being manufactured by Maxar Technologies has passed a critical design review. “OSAM-1 will use robotic arms and tools to work on Landsat 7 to deliver more fuel to Earth observation satellites launched in 1999. This is NASA’s first demonstration of refueling. The mission is expected to launch “by 2025.”
Meanwhile, on April 4, the White House announced a new strategy to help US companies enter the space. The National Strategy for Service, Assembly and Manufacturing in Space (ISAM) has six goals for him: Promote research and development. Prioritize expansion of on-orbit infrastructure. Accelerate his emerging ISAM commercial industry. Promoting international cooperation.
gas station in space
For the second part of the prototyping project, DIU is looking for companies with “capacity to store large quantities of liquid (>5,000 kg) and gaseous propellants in orbit” including hydrazine, liquid oxygen and others. The solicitation seeks suggestions to detail the initial concept of operation “how government client vehicles will receive fuel from the depot.”
Also note that the fuel hub “must support passive interfaces on the client”. Information about this interface will be provided at a later date. ”
DIU hopes that selected vendors will be able to conduct in-orbit demonstrations “within 24 to 30 months of contract signing.”
Perhaps the most prominent entrant into the commercial fuel depot space is Orbit Fab, which uses the not-so-subtle motto of “gas station in space.” The 2018 startup has received direct investment from both Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, as well as a number of venture capital funds.
Orbit Fab has launched the first-ever fuel depot into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) aboard SpaceX Falcon 9 on June 30, 2021. The fuel depot, called Tanker 001 Tenzing, will use a green propellant, High Test Peroxide (HTP), to orbit sun-synchronous orbits to refuel other spacecraft, according to the company’s website. CEO Dan Faber told Breaking Defense in January that the company plans to launch its first depot at GEO “by the end of the year.”
The company announced March 14 that it won a $12 million contract from Air Force and Space Force innovation hubs AFWERX and SpaceWERX to integrate the Rapidly Attachable Fluid Transfer Interface (RAFTI). Any spacecraft that docks with Orbit Fab’s orbital fuel tanks — using various DoD spacecraft. “RAFTI has been selected as the primary refueling interface for multiple Department of Defense orbital refueling missions,” the announcement said.
Additionally, under a deal announced on January 11, the American arm of Japanese startup Astroscale is equipping its new Life Extension In-Orbit (LEXI) Servicer spacecraft with RAFTI. Astroscale plans to fly his LEXI, designed for spacecraft repair, in 2026.
Astroscale’s primary goal is to be a pioneer in space debris removal, and last August it successfully tested the feasibility of small-scale End-of-Life Services with the Astroscale demo (ELSA-d). Last month, the company’s plans to actually capture a small cubesat that simulated a piece of space junk was thwarted by problems with ELSA-d’s thrusters.
Despite failing to restart four of the spacecraft’s eight thrusters, Astroscale announced last week that it will instead conduct a modified flyby test on April 22. . That demo “verifies the ability of the servicer’s low-power wireless sensors to detect and track clients.” After analyzing the data, the company decides whether to attempt a capture at a later date.