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.