NASA Satellite Servicing Office Becomes A Projects Division

Logo for the newly established Satellite Servicing Projects Division (SSPD). Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

December 19, 2016 – Since 2009, the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office (SSCO) has been building upon the heritage of satellite servicing and repair that began with NASA’s successful servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope. Recently, SSCO became the Satellite Servicing Projects Division (SSPD), continuing its growth from one office with multiple demonstrations to a division of three offices and two projects.

The creation of SSPD is more than a name change. “The growth of satellite servicing projects and demonstrations necessitated the evolution of the office into a division,” said Ben Reed, deputy division director for SSPD. SSCO was a vital bridge from human-based shuttle servicing to robotic-based multiple-orbit servicing. “It was the foundation that will allow us as a division to expand our technologies for multiple stakeholders – from on-orbit refueling to large aperture telescope assembly in space, and NASA’s Journey to Mars.”

During its relatively short existence, SSCO completed five technology maturation missions and have three launches planned in the near-term. This rapid maturation and cadence of launches has highlighted the need for a formal NASA division. This evolution to a division allows for greater coordination of NASA servicing missions and the execution of a targeted technology development campaign. An additional advantage is the ability to infuse and transfer cross-cutting servicing capabilities to government and domestic industry stakeholders.

The Satellite Servicing Enabling Technologies (SSET) Office manages the development of key technologies critical to in-space robotic servicing. The role of SSET will be to ensure the development of each technology meets overall SSPD requirements and goals.

The Satellite Servicing Advanced Concepts (SSAC) Office is responsible for identifying and developing new and innovative solutions to in-space servicing needs.

The International Space Station Payloads Office (IPO) is responsible for managing all of the in-space servicing hardware development efforts conducted on the ISS. They include the multi-phased Robotic Refueling Mission, the ISS Robotic External Leak Locator, Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer tools and the Raven demonstration for both robotic and crewed missions.

A view inside the Robotic Operations Center, NASA’s newest facility for satellite servicing development. Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Chris Gunn

The Restore-L Project is responsible for managing the overall developing robotic servicing technologies and capabilities to be used for the Restore-L mission. NASA plans to transfer these technologies and capabilities to interested domestic entities in commercially provided servicing and to meet science and exploration objectives on future deep space exploration missions including the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM).

The ARM Capture Module Project is responsible for the front end of the robotic spacecraft. ARM’s robotic mission will demonstrate advanced, high-power solar electric propulsion capabilities, retrieval of a boulder from an asteroid, deep space trajectory and navigation, and automated rendezvous and docking of multiple vehicles – all key components of future in-space operations for missions to Mars.

What has remained the same is the people. “The spirit of innovation still runs deep among the entire division,” said Reed. “The passion to challenge the status quo of ‘one-and-done’ missions burns as bright as ever.” According to Reed, developments within SSPD will create more capabilities and possibilities for future NASA missions. “SSPD will carry on the skunkworks environment of SSCO and Hubble servicing to better position NASA’s abilities with in-space robotic repair, upgrade and disposal.”