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KSC Engineers Partner with Goddard to Develop On-orbit Satellite Fueling System
Utilizing engineering knowledge gained from 50-plus years of processing and modifying flight hardware, engineers at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) are collaborating with NASA’s Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office (SSCO) at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) to develop a satellite servicing subsystem that could be used to refuel orbiting spacecraft via a robotic “service tow truck” satellite.
The team at Kennedy is developing a reliable and accurate prototype high-pressure propellant transfer assembly. Their work includes the design, fabrication, sub-system development and test of key flight hardware for high pressure hypergolic and supercritical pressure xenon propellant transfer systems and components (including several low Technology Readiness Level items and patent pending designs). The goal of the project is to demonstrate on-orbit that a robotically operated satellite could refuel another orbiting spacecraft that was not originally designed to be refueled, within required typical mission operating parameters.
The KSC team limited development and test costs and saved time by leveraging the evolved design concepts from commercial off-the-shelf technologies for major subsystems elements, and by using a large portion of existing Florida facilities and hardware to perform testing with hazardous, explosive and toxic commodities. Development of the satellite servicing capability would be an important aid to the ever-growing number of orbiting spacecraft that play key roles in communications, science, defense and weather monitoring, providing tremendous cost savings by keeping them in good operating order for longer periods of time.
Benjamin Reed, deputy project manager of Goddard’s SCCO, expressed appreciation for the efforts of the KSC team: “The Kennedy contingent was extraordinarily creative and innovative in the ways that they repurposed shuttle hardware, miraculously negotiated facilities in extraordinarily tight scheduling pockets and designed new technologies to match an immensely challenging problem set.”
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