Effective Space Signs Deal to Maintain and Rescue Satellites with Drones
Representatives for Effective Space, a U.K. based space technology company, announced this week a deal with a well-known satellite operator to provide drones technology for satellite support in orbit. The maintenance deal, which should increase longevity of the satellites, will involve using two drones sent in space on a rocket in order to assist two satellites that are running low on fuel. The agreement between Effective Space and the undisclosed satellite operator is believed to be one of the first of its kind, though most in the field predict increase in competition only if the company is successful in extending the life of satellites. Effective Space claims that its drone – the SPACE DRONE™ spacecraft will significantly extend the life of two communication satellites.
There exist course-correction jets which keep satellites positioned correctly. However, such satellites, which generally hover in a geosynchronous orbit, carry only enough fuel to last for 15 years by default. The satellites then roam free as space junk. Space scientists have been calling upon countries that launch satellites to find a way to extend the life of satellites, or at least change their trajectories toward Earth, to burn up on reentry—this is because there is limited space available for satellites to orbit. So, the group that formed Effective Space believes it is time for drones to rejuvenate aging satellites and/or drag them to their graves.
The Effective Space representatives have reported they will launch two drones in 2020. Once attached, the drones will execute positioning duties for the satellites for several years. The drones will also be able to steer the satellites into a self-destructing spiral if they malfunction for other reasons, and then redeploy to service other satellites. Each drone has a life of 15 years and has the mechanical ability to attach to a satellite in the same manner used to stabilize the satellite when originally boosted into space via rocket.
Effective Space claims to be top notch in delivering, positioning, maintaining, monitoring and guaranteeing space assets in orbit and beyond. The SPACE DRONE™ spacecraft has a patent-pending universal non-intrusive docking system. After rendezvous, it docks with the host satellite and functions as an external ‘jetpack’, performing station-keeping and attitude-control. ‘Phase One’ roll-out will provide life-extension services to operators of satellites operating within Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO). Services provided are listed as station-keeping, relocation, deorbiting, orbit correction, inclination correction and ‘bringing into use’ (BIU). The programme execution is enabled by a secure ecosystem of manufacturing, launch, operations and ancillary services with leading global partners. As their website states, “Further phases are expected to support platform adaptations to support the evolving low-earth-orbit (LEO) constellations, as well as active-debris-removal (ADR) and in-space explorations, mining and manufacturing logistics.”
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