Author Topic: Space Systems Loral (SSL) NASA contract for on-orbit robotic satellite assembly  (Read 6587 times)

Online Chris Bergin

SSL Presser:

SSL SELECTED FOR NASA PROJECT TO DEVELOP robotic on-orbit SATELLITE assembly

PALO ALTO, Calif. – December 10, 2015 — Space Systems Loral (SSL), a leading provider of commercial satellites, today announced that it has been selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for a multi-million dollar contract to develop on-orbit robotic satellite assembly technology.  The project is part of NASA’s Tipping Point initiative to work with industry to advance the goals for robotic and human exploration of the solar system through the development of critical space technologies.

 

Backed by the robotics expertise and heritage of MDA, SSL will partner with NASA researchers to develop systems that will benefit both government and commercial spacecraft.

 

“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,” said John Celli, president of SSL. “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.”

 

SSL is the only US manufacturer with the ability to build on robotics technologies proven on the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station and the Mars lander and rovers, and to fully integrate that technology with its world leading communications satellite platform.

 

The Tipping Point program builds on SSL’s DARPA funded Dragonfly study to take the concept to a ground demonstration. A separate contract award to take the project to a flight demonstration would be required. The Tipping Point selection positions SSL well as a leader in technologies and systems for more complex in-orbit assembly as part of a future ecosystem that will enable deep space exploration, habitats and missions.

 

About SSL

Space Systems Loral (SSL) is a leading provider of commercial satellites with broad expertise to support satellite operators and innovative space related missions. The company designs and manufactures spacecraft for services such as direct-to-home television, video content distribution, broadband Internet, mobile communications, and Earth observation.  As a Silicon Valley innovator for more than 50 years, SSL’s advanced product line also includes state-of-the-art small satellites, and sophisticated robotics and automation solutions for remote operations.  For more information, visit www.sslmda.com.

Offline NovaSilisko

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Interesting. Would be great to see this developed for building large observatories in space.

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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This is one of those technologies that may change how sats are launched. Using larger boosters multiple sats components are launched in "crates" with items more compactly stowed such as antennas and solar arrays such that custom sats are created on orbit from packages of components/sensors. An on orbit final assembly "plant" constructs the sat as desired then a tug is used to put it in the desired orbit. All of this will change the satellite insurance market significantly since a launch failure will not jepordize expensive finished sats but just a collection of cheaper identical components to be used to construct a satellite. In fact there may eventually be multiple providers for a standard F3 (form fit function) of a component allowing the customer to pick a brand for a component.

Online Robotbeat

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This thread should get more traffic. Very interesting.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline Bubbinski

How would this work?

Would a "core craft" with guidance, power, engines, fuel, central computer, and robotic arm be launched first?  Then individual modules (antennae, cameras, etc.) be launched to rendezvous with the core craft by a tug?

I could see this being useful for building upgradable comsats, recon sats, earth science sats, observatories, maybe even planetary probes. For example, building a Mars probe in earth orbit, launching it to the Red Planet with a tug, and say a few years later JPL wants to upgrade with a new instrument launch the instrument on a tug to Mars and rendezvous with the core craft probe.
« Last Edit: 12/30/2015 06:50 PM by Bubbinski »
I'll even excitedly look forward to "flags and footprints" and suborbital missions. Just fly...somewhere.

Offline Paul451

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This is one of those technologies that may change how sats are launched. Using larger boosters multiple sats components are launched in "crates" with items more compactly stowed

Generally satellites are mass restricted, not volume. Crating and building is never going to be cheaper than just having the sticky-out-bits folded up for launch and deployed on-orbit.

(FH lofting 50 tonnes in the F9 5x12m payload fairing might be an exception.)

The only exception is where you have need to have components wide apart on booms/trusses. Interferometers and such. Especially if they mass more than one launch.

(The components in the image in Chris' post are all things can could be more easily attached on the ground and deployed on-orbit. Like every solar array on every satellite. There's not enough 'there' there.)

Perhaps a justification could be in congested GEO slots. If you had a large frame with common power/control-comms/attitude-control, serving standardised attachment points around the frame for customers to slot in their distinctive hardware. Location and utilities provided for a rental fee.

Teleop bots would build (and periodically expand) the frame, swapping out solar panels, radiators, etc, as needed; and intercept and install incoming payloads from customers, swap out old "tenants". Perhaps even performing more detailed maintenance/upgrades on customer equipment, if they have a suitable bot-friendly design. For a fee that is much less than the cost of a new satellite/launch.

(Anyone who read AC Clarke's original (manned) GEO "satellites" would see where I'm heading.)

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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This is one of those technologies that may change how sats are launched. Using larger boosters multiple sats components are launched in "crates" with items more compactly stowed

Generally satellites are mass restricted, not volume. Crating and building is never going to be cheaper than just having the sticky-out-bits folded up for launch and deployed on-orbit.

(FH lofting 50 tonnes in the F9 5x12m payload fairing might be an exception.)

The only exception is where you have need to have components wide apart on booms/trusses. Interferometers and such. Especially if they mass more than one launch.

(The components in the image in Chris' post are all things can could be more easily attached on the ground and deployed on-orbit. Like every solar array on every satellite. There's not enough 'there' there.)

Perhaps a justification could be in congested GEO slots. If you had a large frame with common power/control-comms/attitude-control, serving standardised attachment points around the frame for customers to slot in their distinctive hardware. Location and utilities provided for a rental fee.

Teleop bots would build (and periodically expand) the frame, swapping out solar panels, radiators, etc, as needed; and intercept and install incoming payloads from customers, swap out old "tenants". Perhaps even performing more detailed maintenance/upgrades on customer equipment, if they have a suitable bot-friendly design. For a fee that is much less than the cost of a new satellite/launch.

(Anyone who read AC Clarke's original (manned) GEO "satellites" would see where I'm heading.)
Interesting points about a reconfigurable GEO platform. If the basic platform had a lifetime of 30 years (power, heat rejection, rcs, manuvering propulsion) then new or updated systems can replace outdated or failed systems (avionics, sensors, communications). So no new sat just a constantly evolving sat over a very long life. Since the updates would be smaller and lighter than a complete sat this would enable a very large sat with significant capabilities that would make the HTS GEO comm sats look very obsolete. An HTS has about 100Gb/s data rate throughput. But these could have 10 times that much because of much larger antennas, larger power, more heat rejection, and other features not generally thought as praticle because of size or weight. The HTS was a solution to the problem of minimum arc seperation between sats for small sized ground antennas. This could be an evolution in that direction of growth of capability allowing a significant growth in size without a significant growth requirement for launch.

Although FH may make the "assemble on orbit" a better or worse idea depending on which way the economics work out.

Offline TrevorMonty

This is one of those technologies that may change how sats are launched. Using larger boosters multiple sats components are launched in "crates" with items more compactly stowed

Generally satellites are mass restricted, not volume. Crating and building is never going to be cheaper than just having the sticky-out-bits folded up for launch and deployed on-orbit.

(FH lofting 50 tonnes in the F9 5x12m payload fairing might be an exception.)

The only exception is where you have need to have components wide apart on booms/trusses. Interferometers and such. Especially if they mass more than one launch.

(The components in the image in Chris' post are all things can could be more easily attached on the ground and deployed on-orbit. Like every solar array on every satellite. There's not enough 'there' there.)

Perhaps a justification could be in congested GEO slots. If you had a large frame with common power/control-comms/attitude-control, serving standardised attachment points around the frame for customers to slot in their distinctive hardware. Location and utilities provided for a rental fee.

Teleop bots would build (and periodically expand) the frame, swapping out solar panels, radiators, etc, as needed; and intercept and install incoming payloads from customers, swap out old "tenants". Perhaps even performing more detailed maintenance/upgrades on customer equipment, if they have a suitable bot-friendly design. For a fee that is much less than the cost of a new satellite/launch.

(Anyone who read AC Clarke's original (manned) GEO "satellites" would see where I'm heading.)
This is concept is like hosted payload but on larger scale. Payloads could be attached to booms/trusses going out from central hub like spokes on a wheel. Host would be provide power, comms and coolant. Host could also provide ground station for communications which maybe combination of optical laser and microwave.

Payloads don't necessary need to point earthward, some may being pointing outward to space. eg deep space comms for robotic missions.

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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I was doing some "back of the napkin" musings, and a staging facility at a super-synchronous orbit +100m/s delta V from GSO such that a "maintenance/construction" vehicle could reach any GSO sat from this staging facility perform the swaps and return to the staging facility using only ~200m/s deltaV in a 1 month duration enabling a single vehicle to service 12 sats in each year. The replace/upgrade parts would be sent to the staging facility where the arriving stage delivers the packages and then receives those for disposal whereupon the stage and the item for disposal either is put into a quickly reentering orbit or sent on a sun disposal orbit.

The staging facility is just a large platform with some provided power and cooling with an minimal integrated comm. Systems can be checked out and stored on the platform for use or awaiting disposal. Even outdated replaced systems that were removed may be stored for use if the newer system it replaced on a sat stops working. Systems that no longer work or are not operationally usable (such as the frequency it uses is not allowed any more or the systems it communicates with no longer exist) would be candidates for disposal.

This depot for replacement systems would make the use of a one or two extra systems to support the failures over the systems lifetime of dozens of deployed systems without having to have redundant sets on each platform. Truely critical systems would probably still have redundancies but if one of the redundant pair stops working the same depot concept could be used to replace these to bring its availability back to 100% if another system fails.



Offline baldusi

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I'm wondering about qualification. One of the issues that add costs is that launch environment. High sound, vibration and acceleration are tough mechanical issues. So is flawless deployment.
But what if you could fold it and add some packaging? What about not needing springs and motors but just hinges and latches. And what if such latches don't need to be automatic but can be actuated by a robot? Wouldn't that help lowering the costs?
On the other hand, you can't make integrated tests, like EM compatibility and testing connector connection before sending actual signals.

Offline savuporo

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There is no MDA thread around here, but this is a very nice read

http://spacenews.com/qa-mda-corp-ceo-friedmann-steps-down-saying-company-needs-a-u-s-citizen-to-grow/

Sounds like a real stand up guy.
Orion - the first and only manned not-too-deep-space craft

Offline TrevorMonty

http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/06/29/darpa-awards-tuifirmamentum-contract-develop-constructable-persistent-geo-platform/

Bothell,WA (TUI PR) — Firmamentum, a division of Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) dedicated to developing in-space manufacturing and construction services, announced that it has signed a contract with DARPA to design a persistent geostationary orbit (GEO) satellite platform.

Under the “Constructable™ Platform” Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award, Firmamentum will collaborate with Space Systems Loral (SSL), NanoRacks LLC, and Vulcan Aerospace to develop a modular architecture for constructing stations in Earth orbit capable of supporting multiple government and commercial payloads.

Firmamentum’s Constructable approach entails launching suitcase-sized modular elements at low cost using DARPA’s PODS payload delivery system and then robotically assembling these modules to form a space station in GEO capable of providing power, communications, stationkeeping, and other key services to ‘tenant’ payloads.

Firmamentum’s technologies for manufacturing satellitecomponents such as trusses and reflectors on-orbit will enable integration of these small modules to form large, stable platforms that can grow and evolve to meet the needs of many different payloads over multiple decades of operation.


Both NASA and DARPA have been pushing this robotic assembly in space. DARPA is probably more interested in GEO platform to host its DOD payloads while NASA wants large SEP tugs and telescopes.






Online Robotbeat

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Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline TrevorMonty

Some more info on this on orbit assembly platforms buried in this article.

I think this is future in regards to GEO satellites. Launch providers will also need to provide a means of delivering payload direct to platform GEO location. Something along lines of LM CRS Jupiter concept, where platform provides space tug.

http://www.satellitetoday.com/technology/2016/07/19/ssl-plans-turbocharge-satellite-manufacturing-strategy/

Estey also mentioned a NASA Tipping Point program with SSL to develop an on-orbit robotic assembly capability that could further revolutionize they way satellites are procured and operated. SSL is developing robotic systems based on the heritage of its parent company MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) to construct reflectors in space.

“That can lead into on orbit assembly of all sorts of things if you really put your imagination to it,” Estey explained. “It could be antenna systems, payloads, even moving toward the idea of the persistent platform, where we have a long duration bus and add and subtract payloads as you move along. This creates a quicker refresh rate of new generation payloads. This is in the early stages — not something that will happen in the next five years, likely, but it is a very exciting area of engineering endeavor for us.”

SSL’s initial program with NASA is a ground demonstration. The next stage for this technology will be to get it into orbit and demonstrate it on a commercial satellite.


Offline savuporo

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“That can lead into on orbit assembly of all sorts of things if you really put your imagination money to it,” Estey explained.
Fixed the quote ;)
Orion - the first and only manned not-too-deep-space craft

Offline TrevorMonty

Mike Gold from SSL talks about "persistent platform" (PP) on Von Braun Symposium 2016 Video.Dorry don't have link, search on livestream, he is in second half of video.

For GEO satellites the payload only makes up 20% weight rest is satellite bus.

This is how I see it working. With PP customer only needs build payload and sell its product. The PP would provide transport, communications (high speed uplink), power, thermal management and even aerials (built/3d print on site).
This could lower cost of entry into GEO market by x10 or more. Current entry price for GEO sat and launch is around $300m + ground systems, a PP payload built and installed <$50m?. Lead times would be shorter, takes lot less time to build and test payload than complete satellite. More launch options, I imagine PP owner providing this.

Reliability would be higher as PP has multiply redundant systems, plus ability to repair its self.

If payload is lost during launch or fails, operating replacement would be months not years aways.

Lower costs mean payloads can be refreshed every few years even months as technology advances.

Payloads are not limited to servicing earth, the can also point outward to space eg telescopes, deep space communications aerials or lasers.

These ever growing permanent structures would create a market in GEO for station keeping fuel and construction materials. Asteroid/lunar mining companies now have market in space for their products. Now everything would be in place to build space solar power satellites and beam power to earth.


Offline TrevorMonty

« Last Edit: 11/04/2016 04:42 PM by TrevorMonty »

Offline gosnold

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For GEO satellites the payload only makes up 20% weight rest is satellite bus.

This is how I see it working. With PP customer only needs build payload and sell its product. The PP would provide transport, communications (high speed uplink), power, thermal management and even aerials (built/3d print on site).
You have basically described a standard GEO satcom. There are already satcom contracts where one manufacturer builds the payload and another the bus. What makes SSL's solution special?

Offline Paul451

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For GEO satellites the payload only makes up 20% weight rest is satellite bus.
This is how I see it working. With PP customer only needs build payload and sell its product. The PP would provide transport, communications (high speed uplink), power, thermal management and even aerials (built/3d print on site).
You have basically described a standard GEO satcom. There are already satcom contracts where one manufacturer builds the payload and another the bus. What makes SSL's solution special?

The "persistent" part. Essentially Trevor is describing (if I'm reading correctly) permanent, unmanned "space-stations", instead of individual satellites. Swap out the customer hardware, keep the robot-tended super-"bus".

Offline Asteroza

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So, GEO space corals...

But part of the justification for space corals is perceived limited real estate due to GEO slot distribution (preferred slot positions, safety standoff between sats, minimum spacing to deal with RF pointing overlap).

The RF overlap issue might be a problem as a space coral densifies the distribution. In reverse, if using lasercomm, then dense packing might not be a problem depending on spot size, but that still implies a minimum separation on the "backbone" of the space coral truss.


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