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This isn’t really a new idea

That is, the concept of servicing satellites to extend their life span isn’t new. How it is being done -

NEW YORK — A young spaceflight company is building what it hopes will be the ultimate space handyman, a combination repair droid and orbital gas station to serve ailing satellites around Earth.

The company, called ViviSat, is planning to launch a fleet of specially built spacecraft that will be able to attach to other vehicles in Earth orbit that need a pick-me-up.

“We call them Mission Extension Vehicles,” ViviSat chief operating officer Bryan McGuirk said Nov. 15 at the 2012 Satellite and Content Delivery Conference and Expo here. “Our job will be to dock with commercial satellites to extend their lives.”

Is however new. Not only is it done by a private company, but it is done economically. NASA had a satellite servicing system. It was the space shuttle. Sexy, super high tech, designed to be both a jack of all trades as well as a master at them all, and because its mission scope was so broadly defined, ridiculously expensive for this sort of work. Not to mention that you can not park the shuttle in orbit for decades because of the human component.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating for unmanned space flight exclusively, but back in the 80s when I was in college I had a discussion with my Aerospace professor about just how much cheaper, effective, and efficient such a specialized robotic service station would be. Granted I had the satellites dropping in to be refurbished & refueled, and this new concept has the service module go find the satellite to service – and improvement on the idea – but in general the concept was the same. The professor basically told me that my idea would never get off the ground because the government bureaucrats running NASA would never go for such a simple system, let alone one that was unmanned, because it was neither sexy nor big thinking enough for what they were accustomed to.

Things like this is why I firmly believe that if you want to waste money & time having people come up with a howitzer as the solution to kill flies instead of a simple fly swatter, you put the government bureaucrat types in charge. They might have know how to make shit happen in the 60s before the big government types basically torpedoed the system, but that capability is all but gone today.

Don’t worry though. As soon as the bureaucrats feel threatened by this stuff they will just have congress regulate these private ventures out of existence. That’s the one thing government bureaucrats are exceptionally good at.

10 comments

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  1. Hal_10000 says:

    NASA explored this idea a little bit with the idea of automated deorbiting of satellites that have gone offline and might be dangerous as space junk (I’m looking at you, Envisat). The shuttle ended up not dong much servicing beyond HUbble because it was cheaper to just build and launch a new satellite.

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  2. Dave D says:

    AN interesting game to play on these techno-geek (me included) sciency things when I miss the OP name above the scroll:

    I call it “Hal or notHal?”

    I started reading and got to:

    The professor basically told me that my idea would never get off the ground because the government bureaucrats running NASA would never go for such a simple system, let alone one that was unmanned, because it was neither sexy nor big thinking enough for what they were accustomed to.

    30% certain it is notHal.

    Read further and got to:

    Things like this is why I firmly believe that if you want to waste money & time having people come up with a howitzer as the solution to kill flies instead of a simple fly swatter, you put the government bureaucrat types in charge. They might have know how to make shit happen in the 60s before the big government types basically torpedoed the system, but that capability is all but gone today.

    60% certain it is notHal.

    Read further to what I call the “point of certain nonHal”:

    As soon as the bureaucrats feel threatened by this stuff they will just have congress regulate these private ventures out of existence.

    I guess you could say that the last quote also pushed it over to “certainAlex”? God, I spend too much time reading here!

    Comments? (ducks for cover…..)

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  3. AlexInCT says:

    Comments? (ducks for cover…..)

    Are you trying to start trouble here Dave, huh? [BIG SMILEY FACE]

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  4. Dave D says:

    Nah! Just noting that I almost NEVER look at the OP until after I read the post. I’d buy all of you a beer if I ever met you, except for Kimpost. He scares me……. lol/jk

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  5. Kimpost says:

    Great, the other commies gets beer… ;(

    I’d buy you one, though, Dave. A right-thinking beer-summit !

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  6. AlexInCT says:

    I’d buy you one, though, Dave. A right-thinking beer-summit !

    OK, that I liked. Now we are talking.

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  7. ilovecress says:

    Us lefties will only join in if it’s organic, fair trade, ethically sourced, locally produced wheat beer in a recyclable bottle purchased from a locally owned liqor store owned by a wiccan named Raine.

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  8. Thrill says:

    Even that is better than Budweiser, cress.

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  9. Dave D says:

    That IS Budweiser! Full circle around the crazy wheel all the way back to……Bud.

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  10. HARLEY says:

    Its nice to see ATK get off the Gov nipple a bit and do something on their own..
    I woudl really liek to see how they intend on refueling on orbit satellites, that were never built or designed to receive propellents in micro gravity.
    The whole issues or on orbit refueling has really not been fully tried, NASA is currently looking onto it for mission extensions for the SLS-Orion by deploying Fuel depots to orbit and/or L2 refueling for longer on orbit at Luna and trans solar orbits to NEA’s.. Near earth Asteroids.. oh yeah and ATK has the contract for the boosters on that too.

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