Mon. Oct 14th, 2019

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How NASA Will Grapple and Refuel a Satellite in Low Earth Orbit

For the foreseeable future, access to space will remain very expensive. Even with tricks like reusing rockets or launching from balloons and giant airplanes, it still costs thousands of dollars per kilogram to put something into low Earth orbit. And once you’ve put something up there, that thing is generally on its own (with very few exceptions), and hopefully does what it needs to until it runs out of fuel, at which point most satellites are completely useless.

This is, overall, an extraordinarily inefficient system. NASA would like to change this, and thinks that puttingĀ gas stations and repair shopsĀ in space would be an absolutely smashing idea. A few satellite servicing programs are (more or less) underway, and earlier this year, we visited the Robotic Operations Center at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland to learn more.