Robotic refueling demo begins today on ISS

A robotic refueling demo. designed and built by the same people who ran the Hubble Space Telescope repair missions, begins today on ISS, using Dextre.

This demo is designed to prove that a robot, operated from the ground, can refuel a satellite not designed for refueling. The demo satellite on ISS was built to match the design of several climate satellites already in orbit that will end up defunct in a few years if they can’t be refueled.

Lack of U.S. government interest in commercial refueling mission causes problems

A lack of U.S. government interest in a privately designed satellite refueling technology has caused the company to pull back its plans.

MDA had signed a contract with the communications satellite company Intelsat to refuel some of its orbiting satellites, but needed additional customers to make a go of it. It had hoped the U.S. Defense Department would show interest, but they have not.

This is exactly where the government should be investing its capital, and that it is not tells us a lot about the real lack of sincerity behind the Obama administration’s claims that it wants to encourage private space. I also suspect that the turf war with satellite companies and defense contractors helped discourage Defense Department interest.