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Commercial Application of In-Space AssemblyIn-Space assembly (ISA) expands the opportunities for cost effective emplacement of systems in space. Currently, spacecraft are launched into space and deploy into their operational configuration through a carefully choreographed sequence of operations. The deployment operation dictates the arrangement of the primary systems on the spacecraft, limiting the ability to take full advantage of launch vehicles volume and mass capability. ISA enables vastly different spacecraft architectures and emplacement scenarios to be achieved, including optimal launch configurations ranging from single launch and assembly to on-orbit aggregation of multiple launches at different orbital locations and times. The spacecraft can be visited at different orbital locations and times to effect expansion and maintenance of an operational capability. To date, the primary application of ISA has been in large programs funded by government organizations, such as the International Space Station. Recently, Space Systems Loral (SSL) led a study funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), called Dragonfly, to investigate the commercial applicability and economic advantages of ISA. In the study, it was shown that ISA enables SSL to double the capability of a commercial satellite system by taking advantage of alternate packaging approaches for the reflectors. The study included an ultra-light-weight robotic system, derived from Mars manipulator designs, to complete assembly of portions of the antenna system using a tool derived from DARPA orbital express and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) automated structural assembly experience. The mechanical connector that enables robotic ISA takes advantage of decades of development by NASA from the 1970's to 1980's during the Space Station Freedom program, the precursor to the ISS. The mechanical connector was originally designed for rapid astronaut assembly while also providing a high quality structural connection with linear load deflection response. The paper will discuss the business case for ISA, the general approach taken to exploit on-orbit assembly in the GEO communication satellite market, and the concept of operations associated with the ISA approach, thus laying the foundation for ISA to become an accepted operational approach for commercial in-space operations.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Lymer, John
(Space Systems/Loral Palo Alto, CA, United States)
Hanson, Mark
(Space Systems/Loral Palo Alto, CA, United States)
Tadros, Al
(Space Systems/Loral Palo Alto, CA, United States)
Boccio, Joel
(Space Systems/Loral Palo Alto, CA, United States)
Hollenstein, Bruno
(Space Systems/Loral Palo Alto, CA, United States)
Emerick, Ken
(Space Systems/Loral Palo Alto, CA, United States)
Doughtery, Sean
(MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. Richmond, British Columbia, Canada)
Doggett, Bill
(NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, VA, United States)
Dorsey, John T.
(NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, VA, United States)
King, Bruce D.
(Northrop Grumman Corp. Hampton, VA, United States)
Bowman, Lynn
(NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, VA, United States)
Date Acquired
September 30, 2016
Publication Date
September 13, 2016
Subject Category
Spacecraft Design, Testing And Performance
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
Meeting: AIAA Space 2016
Location: Long Beach, CA
Country: United States
Start Date: September 13, 2016
End Date: September 16, 2016
Sponsors: American Inst. of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Funding Number(s)
WBS: WBS 647280.04.07.50
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
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