Back to a Future — Serviceable Spacecraft Make a Comeback

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NASA Goddard Technologists Find Solutions

Ever consternation about a destiny of space science? Hop inside a time appurtenance that transports we behind 40 years and we competence get a good thought about where things are headed. History, it would seem, has a humorous approach of repeating itself.

Goddard operative Michael Kienlen, who is examine servicing over low-Earth orbit, and Benjamin Reed, emissary plan manager of Goddard’s Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office, mount in front of a mockup of a Robotic Refueling Mission now deployed on a International Space Station. Credits: NASA/C. Gunn

Goddard operative Michael Kienlen, who is examine servicing over low-Earth orbit, and Benjamin Reed, emissary plan manager of Goddard’s Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office, mount in front of a mockup of a Robotic Refueling Mission now deployed on a International Space Station.
Credits: NASA/C. Gunn

Serviceable booster — like a NASA-developed Multi-Mission Modular Spacecraft (MMS) and, of course, a iconic Hubble Space Telescope that NASA recognised and grown in a 1970s with servicing in mind — are once again de rigueur. (The workable MMS shouldn’t be confused with NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, that also goes by a MMS acronym.)

Case in point: As compulsory by Congress in a law upheld in 2010 and afterwards nice 5 years later, NASA is requiring that due flagship astrophysics missions support servicing, even if their orbits are adult to a million miles away. The group also expelled a Request for Information (RFI) seeking ideas for a booster pattern that it could use for both a due Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) and as a car for refueling a supervision satellite in low-Earth orbit.

“The 40-year cycle is starting all over again,” pronounced Benjamin Reed, emissary plan manager of a Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office (SSCO) during NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. SSCO crew grown all of a technologies to use Hubble and is now formulating and demonstrating next-generation servicing technologies, including validation experiments on a International Space Station. “It worked with Hubble. It would be crazy not to consider it would work again. It’s behind to a future.”

And according to him, NASA is good along a approach to realizing that destiny — even if it means servicing booster positioned tens of thousands of miles divided from terra firma.

What’s Different Today

Satellite servicing positively isn’t new — as evidenced by a 5 Hubble servicing missions and a 1984 correct of a Solar Max idea that used a MMS workable satellite bus.

What’s opposite now is where these operations are approaching to start in a destiny and a record indispensable to safeguard success. Robotic booster — expected operated with joysticks by technicians on a belligerent — would lift out a hands-on maneuvers, not tellurian beings regulating robotic and other specialized tools, as was a box for low-Earth-orbiting Hubble and Solar Max.

“Goddard knows how to use satellites in low-Earth orbits,” pronounced Michael Kienlen, an SSCO operative who is examine servicing over low-Earth orbit. “However, destiny flagship missions, including a WFIRST-AFTA (Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope-Astrophysics Focused Telescope) and other destiny observatories should work in some-more apart orbits.”

The Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office is building technologies indispensable to correct and use satellites not creatively designed for servicing. The classification uses laboratory equipment, such as this mockup of Landsat 7, to exam a techniques. Credits: NASA/C. Gunn

The Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office is building technologies indispensable to correct and use satellites not creatively designed for servicing. The classification uses laboratory equipment, such as this mockup of Landsat 7, to exam a techniques.
Credits: NASA/C. Gunn

WFIRST-AFTA, that NASA skeleton to supply with an 8-foot (2.4-meter) counterpart and a slitless spectrometer and imager, will examine dim energy, a puzzling form of appetite that permeates all of space and accelerates a enlargement of a universe, while providing vast surveys. It also will lift a coronagraph that will concede a look-out to picture hulk exoplanets and waste disks in other solar systems.

Other unpractical missions that several groups now are examine in credentials for a 2020 Astrophysics Decadal Survey also could work in some-more apart orbits.

Although still in a unpractical stage, these missions competence lift really vast primary mirrors that would concede scientists to examine cosmological targets with larger fortitude and sensitivity. One probable systematic pattern would be to find Earth-size exoplanets [This links to a story about a VNC] in a habitable section in a solar area and afterwards brand chemicals in their atmospheres that competence prove a participation of life.

To grasp these desirous goals, WFIRST and a other unpractical observatories ideally would work from Sun-Earth L2 (SEL2), a thermally fast sun-Earth circuit roughly a million miles away.

Due to concerns that technologies competence not exist to use SEL2-orbiting missions, some have endorsed that a observatories fly in geostationary circuit (GEO), roughly 10 percent of a stretch to a moon.

Robotic Servicing Achievable in SEL2

“GEO competence not an choice for these missions since of a thermal-stability requirements,” Kienlen said. “One stumbling retard is a notice that there is not a trustworthy unfolding for servicing satellites during SEL2. We don’t wish to force all destiny flagship missions to a lesser-performing circuit since they are compulsory to be serviceable. So, we will figure out how to take servicing to them.”

“It’s not like we have to reinvent a wheel. We have never stopped building servicing technologies. The disproportion now is that destiny flagship missions are compulsory to be serviceable,” combined Julie Crooke, a Goddard engineer, astrophysics technical manager, and member of a group that has been examine one of several destiny idea concepts. “With suitable record investments, we are on a transparent trail to demonstrating a servicing capability apart from low-Earth orbit,” she said.

Beth Keer, who heads SSCO’s Advanced Concepts Office, agrees. “We have demonstrated robotic refueling on a space station. It’s one of a stepping stones along a approach to creation robotic servicing a approach of a future.”

Robotic Refueling

Now in a second proviso of a on-orbit proof aboard a International Space Station, NASA’s Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) is regulating a Canadian Space Agency’s two-armed robotic handyman, Dextre, to uncover how destiny robots could use and refuel satellites in space.

VIPIR, brief for Visual Inspection Poseable Invertebrate Robot, is a robotic, articulating borescope that would assistance idea operators who need robotic eyes to troubleshoot anomalies, examine micrometeoroid strikes, and lift out teleoperated satellite-repair jobs. NASA successfully demonstrated VIPIR’s capabilities progressing this year. Credits: NASA/C. Gunn

VIPIR, brief for Visual Inspection Poseable Invertebrate Robot, is a robotic, articulating borescope that would assistance idea operators who need robotic eyes to troubleshoot anomalies, examine micrometeoroid strikes, and lift out teleoperated satellite-repair jobs. NASA successfully demonstrated VIPIR’s capabilities progressing this year.
Credits: NASA/C. Gunn

One of those tools, VIPIR, brief for Visual Inspection Poseable Invertebrate Robot, is a robotic, articulating borescope versed with a second motorized, zoom-lens camera that would assistance idea operators who need robotic eyes to troubleshoot anomalies, examine micrometeoroid strikes, and lift out teleoperated satellite-repair jobs. NASA successfully demonstrated VIPIR’s capabilities progressing this year. During RRM’s third phase, a SSCO group skeleton to denote a send of xenon, a colorless, unenlightened eminent gas potentially useful for powering ion engines.

RRM, however, is usually one square of SSCO’s ongoing efforts to creation servicing a tried-and-true capability for destiny missions.

ROSE and Restore

To be simply serviceable, regardless of a orbit, a satellite itself contingency be privately designed to accommodate repairs. For example, NASA’s MMS workable satellite train featured a modular pattern that done it easy for astronauts to implement a new opinion control complement when a strange unsuccessful on Solar Max.

Though not modular like MMS, Hubble did support on-orbit servicing on a member level. Like opening a door, astronauts literally would lift out an instrument before reinserting a new one into a same form — a pursuit done easier with a observatory’s 76 handholds. However, Hubble’s miss of modularity meant that NASA had to rise special collection and procedures privately for scarcely any member and task.

“Although Hubble servicing was intensely successful, a missions were formidable and compulsory a rarely orchestrated multiple of robotic and wanderer activities,” celebrated Dino Rossetti, of Conceptual Analytics in Glen Dale, Maryland, in a paper submitted during an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics discussion in September.

Modularity is key, and SSCO is holding it to a new level, Keer said.

The classification now is building a Reconfigurable Operational booster for Science and Exploration (ROSE), a low-cost booster judgment that seeks to build on a success of MMS. The organization’s major idea is long-term affordability and servicing during a complement level, that would make ROSE rarely stretchable for medium-size missions, Keer said.

“We perspective ROSE as a trailblazer for destiny missions,” Reed added.

Repair Craft Needed

Also indispensable is a robotic servicing vehicle. Reed pronounced his classification has focused on building that capability, as well. For a past few years, a classification has followed a notional idea called Restore, that would be able of refueling satellites in both geostationary and low-Earth orbits.

Key servicing technologies, he said, are baselined for NASA’s due asteroid mission, ARM, that involves a constraint of a vast stone from a aspect of a near-Earth asteroid and relocating it into a fast circuit around a moon for wanderer exploration. The same form of booster also could refuel a supervision satellite in low-Earth orbit, as called for in NASA’s RFI.

“I can suppose a swift of Restores,” Reed said. “A singular servicer could refuel and use WFIRST and another destiny look-out during a SEL2 orbit. Another could be parked in another circuit for other servicing tasks, such as assisting arrange a 65-foot segmented counterpart in space, he said.

“We’re holding all we schooled over a past many years, robots and humans operative together,” Keer added. “Our opinion here is we have to have one feet in a future. We design to be on a slicing edge. Servicing during some-more apart orbits, such as SEL2, is coming,” she said.

Source: NASA