Space Systems Loral wins contract for satellite refueling mission
Space Systems Loral (SSL) of Palo Alto, California, was awarded a NASA contract for Restore-L, a robotic spacecraft designed to grasp, refuel, and relocate satellites in orbit, even if they were not originally designed for on-orbit servicing.
Restore-L is a free-flying mission projected to launch in 2020 to perform in-orbit satellite servicing on an operational government asset in low-Earth orbit.
SSL will provide the spacecraft bus and critical hardware for the mission as well as services for the development, deployment, and operations of the Restore-L mission. Additional services relating to mission integration, test and launch are to be provided as well.
The concept for such a repair spacecraft has been around for some time. NASA developed the On-Orbit Satellite Servicing Study in 2010, an in-depth look at the feasibility of prolonging the life a satellite. Extending the life of existing space assets promises multi-million dollar savings for satellite operations companies.
In addition to NASA’s efforts, private industry has also been working to develop such vehicles. ViviSat, a joint venture of Orbital ATK and satellite operator U.S. Space LLC, is one such example. The VivSat design, while much simpler than Restore-L, is similar in function but requires the on-orbit satellite to be built with servicing in mind. Restore-L will not have that limitation.
The three-year, $127 million contract uses a firm-fixed-price model. The contact also includes a two-year indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity portion. Under a firm-fixed-price contract, SSL must “deliver conforming products or services regardless of the cost” and assumes the maximum cost risk. However, this contract puts no limit on the “opportunity to earn [a] profit”.
NASA’s Satellite Servicing Projects Division at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the Restore-L project for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.
Joe Latrell is a life-long avid space enthusiast having created his own rocket company in Roswell, NM in addition to other consumer space endeavors. He continues to design, build and launch his own rockets and has a passion to see the next generation excited about the opportunities of space exploration. Joe lends his experiences from the corporate and small business arenas to organizations such as Teachers In Space, Inc. He is also actively engaged in his church investing his many skills to assist this and other non-profit endeavors.