TOPIC: Outlook on Ecosystem and commercial implications of modular plug-and-play (PnP) space systems and operations including on-orbit servicing (OOS) and on-orbit assembly (OOA)
BACKGROUND: The evolution of global space business comprises, i.e., large constellations of satellites, advanced new systems across orbits and manifold exploration activities, mostly with commercial potential. However, major steps in the context of next generation space endeavors, in particular exploration and large space infrastructure will have to make use of approaches involving on-orbit servicing (OOS), on-orbit assembly (OOA), based on modularized concepts using standardized subsystems and component – thus, PnP. Those in order to enhance flexibility and economic efficiency of such systems and businesses. OOS market prospects are substantial (ref. e.g., the NSR reports) and the first commercial mission has been launched last November (MEV-1), which will trigger new thinking and design philosophies. Important subset of OOS is unmanned satellite servicing using robotics and automation technologies. To date various concepts for on-orbit servicing of satellites have been developed and investigated, mostly driven by the technological challenges involved.
ISSUES: Associated economics have not been fully understood, why government support measures as well as private sector funding remain absent, at least sub-optimal yet. Now, activities seem to have a renaissance, recently also stimulated by intensified discussions on space debris removal and avoidance. Particularly life extension of GEO telecommunication satellites and space debris removal missions are being promoted by various actors around the globe, both government and the private sector. However, no OOS business, nor space debris removal are either operational or commercially successful yet.
GOAL: The paper should put in context – based on sample missions/space businesses – relevant technology/systems and operations and identify major drivers in a high-level approach. The objective should be to come up with a simplified model of an ecosystem involving OOS + OOA and related modular and PnP approaches.