This paper presents some of the results of an 18-month study into robotic on-orbit servicing (OOS) by the authors for the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft und Raumfahrt (DLR)), which leads the world in this area of space technology development. Rather than dealing with technology issues, however, we deal with issues concerning the potential market (the "demand" side) for OOS. We present the case that robotic OOS is not only commercially feasible, but also even more strongly assert that it is essential. We consider in particular the recent high incidence of on-orbit failures in geostationary telecommunications platforms. We present the sobering statistics of such failures, and determine that only OOS can mitigate these and future failures. OOS represents the first space-based commercial opportunity that serves the space industry itself rather than Earth-oriented applications more typical of commercial space activities, and to that end provides the basis for future space infrastructure development.

, , ,
Acta Astronautica
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Ellery, A, Kreisel, J. (Joerg), & Sommer, B. (Bernd). (2008). The case for robotic on-orbit servicing of spacecraft: Spacecraft reliability is a myth. Acta Astronautica, 63(5-6), 632–648. doi:10.1016/j.actaastro.2008.01.042