Orbital ATK Satellite Life Extension

fredymac

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I thought I saw a thread about this somewhere else but I can't find it. ATK had an older video on this concept and has updated it showing more development work on the concept.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kB13vvqCv5k
 

blackstar

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These commercial satellite servicing concepts have been around for about a decade or so now. To be sure, the concept of satellite servicing goes way back, and even appeared in 1950s-era science fiction artwork. And NASA did servicing with the shuttle in the 1980s and 1990s. But the idea of doing it robotically as a commercial venture picked up steam around 2007 or 8 and there have been a bunch of different proposals. DARPA was involved for awhile. NASA has long had a project at Goddard.

But I just don't think that the business case ever really closes. The servicing mission is going to cost a substantial fraction of a new satellite. If a comsat regularly lasts 12-15 years, does it make much sense to service it late in life? Isn't it more logical to replace it with something that will use technology that is 12-15 years newer? There's a reason why we don't keep upgrading our laptop computers but replace them every 3-5 years.
 

Hobbes

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The useful life of a satellite is often limited by propellant. The ability to extend a satellite's life beyond that point makes sense. Some providers will want to spend $300 million on launching a new, more capable sat, others might like the option to keep theirs around a bit longer if they can spend $30M on a life extension mission.

Feasibility hinges on low launch cost and the ability to mass-produce these service modules. With everything that happens in the market at the moment, the time for this idea has come, in my opinion.
 

blackstar

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Hobbes said:
The useful life of a satellite is often limited by propellant. The ability to extend a satellite's life beyond that point makes sense.

And again: you end up extending the lifetime of 15-year-old electronics. There's a reason why we buy new cellphones and laptops every few years, because the technology is vastly superior to technology that is only a few years old.

In addition, once you get to 12+ years on orbit, refilling the gas tank does not do anything to guarantee that the old components are not going to break. The fuel level is predictable, but after you've exceeded the design lifetime on the components, their failure is probably not all that predictable.

We'll see if they can do this, but my suspicion is that the refurbishment is going to have to be very cheap in order to make sense.
 

Hobbes

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Laptops and cellphones move at a different rate to pretty much everything else. E.g. transmitters in comsats do not obey Moore's law.

From an article on satellite life extension:
Because propellant exhaustion usually occurs when other satellite bus and payload subsystems have significant useful life remaining, consigning otherwise useful and expensively built and launched equipment to junk,

There is a market for second-hand satellites. Even ones that fail to reach their intended (geostationary) orbit are sometimes sold on and used for years.
 

Byeman

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Hobbes said:
Laptops and cellphones move at a different rate to pretty much everything else. E.g. transmitters in comsats do not obey Moore's law.

But the rest of the avionics do, batteries, sensors, solar cells, electronics, etc And so does the RF spectrum used.
So Blackstar is correct.
 

Hobbes

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Out of batteries, sensors, solar cells, electronics, and RF spectrum, only digital electronics obey Moore's law. Everywhere else progress is much slower.
 

Byeman

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Hobbes said:
Out of batteries, sensors, solar cells, electronics, and RF spectrum, only digital electronics obey Moore's law. Everywhere else progress is much slower.

A distinction without a difference. The point is that components of the spacecraft become obsolete before the propellant runs out.
 

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