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Orbital ATK unveils new satellite servicing robots

Capitalism in space: At a satellite conference yesterday Orbital ATK unveiled a new robotic satellite servicing system utilizing two new robots, the Mission Robotic Vehicle (MRV) and Mission Extension Pods (MEP), simpler yet also more sophisticated versions of its Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV) which is already planned for launch later this year.

Under the new approach, a Mission Robotic Vehicle, based on the MEV design, will carry 10 to 12 Mission Extension Pods. The Mission Robotic Vehicle would approach a customer’s satellite and use a robotic arm to attach a pod to that satellite. The pod would then take over stationkeeping, proving up to five years of additional life. The Mission Robotic Vehicle and Mission Extension Pods are intended to provide new solutions to customers that don’t need the full-fledged capabilities of the MEV. The pods have a shorter lifetime than an MEV and do not provide attitude control capabilities.

The new system, designed to be ready for service in 2021, largely incorporates existing technology. The Mission Robotic Vehicle is a version of the MEV and the Mission Extension Pods is based on Orbital ATK’s ESPASat small satellite bus.

One new technology will be the robotic arm. Tom Wilson, president of SpaceLogistics, the Orbital ATK subsidiary offering the satellite life extension program, said the company was considering technology from NASA as well as Europe. “We’ve got a couple of different options,” he said, but hasn’t yet made a decision on the specific technology.

Orbital ATK’s new design will certainly cost its customers a lot less, since its design that will allow them, with one launch, to place a robot in orbit capable of servicing up to twelve different satellites. You want to extend the life of your communications satellite by five years? You call Orbital ATK, and they use their already orbiting Mission Robotic Vehicle to install an extension pod on your satellite. This way they can spread the cost of the launch across a dozen different customers.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!

 

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

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Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

5 comments

  • Steve Earle

    I think they were reading our comments here on BTB…..

    This makes much more sense than the MEV did. Why tie up your expensive robotic spacecraft for several years doing simple stationkeeping when you can just attach a pod and go on to service (for a nice fee) the next customer.

    The MEV will still have its uses, and I’m sure there will be some customers that will pay for its extra capabilities, but this new idea seems to be a much more practical use of resources.

  • wodun

    The pods have a shorter lifetime than an MEV and do not provide attitude control capabilities.

    Maybe more than one pod could though?

    These new products are exciting.

  • Max

    Steve Earle said,
    “The MEV will still have its uses, and I’m sure there will be some customers that will pay for its extra capabilities”
    I’m sure you made everyone’s minds start thinking about what else it could do. What capability do you wish for your spacecraft to have?
    First thing I thought of was attaching two pods for an additional 10 years of life, or attaching one to competitors satellite to give them trouble. Perhaps hijacking their information stream. Espionage to seewhat they’re up to.
    It will have it’s own independent control system. That means the pod could have communications, GPS, radar, or other independent satellite functions placed in orbit, paid for by the client! (don’t touch that self-destruct button)

  • Max

    Wodum quoted;
    “The pods have a shorter lifetime than an MEV and do not provide attitude control capabilities.”
    I just realized, The pods do not provide attitude control capabilities, but the MRV does… After its through delivering it’s pods, the MRV can provide similar services as the MEV.

  • Steve Earle

    Max said:
    “…or attaching one to competitors satellite to give them trouble. Perhaps hijacking their information stream. Espionage to seewhat they’re up to….”

    Brilliant! I wonder how many commercial (or military either…) satellites have the necessary sensors to tell when something is sneaking up on them? I would bet that is something all new sats will have built in from now on! LOL

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