Using two cubesats released separately after launch, Lockheed Martin has successfully tested maneuvering and rendezvous in space.
The two cubesats, each the size of a toaster, were deployed 300 kilometers above geostationary orbit from a ring-shaped secondary payload that carried multiple smallsats. They were released three days apart about 750 kilometers away from each other and a month later they were navigating within 400 meters of each other, Karla Brown, Linuss program manager, told reporters during a news conference at Lockheed Martin’s technology center at the Catalyst Campus.
One of the cubesats performed the role of servicing vehicle and the other was the resident space object. She said she expects the satellites to come even closer, to about 200 meters as the experiment continues. The more significant goal that was accomplished was proving AI algorithms that would be needed to perform a space servicing mission, Brown said.
Maybe the most interesting aspect of this project however is how it is funded. This is old-fashioned R&D (research & development), funded not by the government but by Lockheed Martin as part of a a suite of related in-space servicing projects. Before the arrival of the military-industrial complex post World War II, such work was always paid for in house by the private sector. This commercial R&D was often given great freedom to experiment, in the hope that it would result in new products producing profits.
With the arrival of lots of government money in the 1950s and 1960s, that private R&D money dried up. Big space companies would instead only do the research and development that was funded by the government, either by NASA or the Pentagon. As a result, innovation dried up as well.
The return of private R&D likely means we shall once again see more innovation, since it will once again be done to search out new innovative ways to do things.
On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.
The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon
, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit
. If you buy it from ebookit
you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.
The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.
"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News