Startup using Soviet-era technology to build satellite servicing vehicle – SpaceNews

Kurs Orbital plans to deal with servicing geostationary satellites

WASHINGTON — A Ukrainian startup is constructing an in-orbit servicing car utilizing area docking know-how developed many years in the past by the previous Soviet Union. 

The startup, named Kurs Orbital, was co-founded by the previous head of Ukraine’s area company Volodymyr Usov. The corporate plans to launch a demonstration vehicle in 2023, Usov instructed SpaceNews.

Investments are pouring into launch autos and satellites, and servicing could possibly be the following section of the {industry} to achieve traction, he stated. 

The market research firm NSR initiatives in-orbit servicing will likely be a $three billion enterprise over the following decade. Companies that corporations are anticipated to supply embody orbit relocation, de-orbiting, refueling, elements substitute and restore.

After leaving Ukraine’s area company following a shakeup final 12 months, Usov and a small group of entrepreneurs determined to start out a tv for pc servicing firm after securing rights to the Kurs rendezvous system. The Soviets developed the know-how within the 1980s to dock with the Mir area station and later upgraded it for the Soyuz spacecraft to dock with the Worldwide House Station.

Usov stated Kurs Orbital has the rights to the unique Kurs rendezvous system however is creating a brand new rendezvous acquisition module that makes use of machine imaginative and prescient, radar and which “permits totally computerized docking even with uncooperative objects,” he stated.

Not having to years and billions of {dollars} creating a brand new docking system is a benefit, Usov stated.

Kurs Orbital plans to deal with servicing industrial geostationary satellites, a sector the place Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Car already is capturing market share following a successful space docking with an Intelsat satellite tv for pc. One other mission launched in August to service a second Intelsat spacecraft however the MEV has not but docked with the satellite tv for pc. 

Usov’s firm will likely be a number of years behind Northrop Grumman and rising participant Astroscale, which final 12 months acquired the intellectual property of Efficient House Options, an Israeli satellite tv for pc life-extension and servicing firm that can deal with the GEO market. 

Kurs Orbital thus far has raised $6.5 million to start out the demonstration car that can rendezvous with an uncooperative object in low Earth orbit, he stated. “I believe that we are going to be on schedule for 2023 with an illustration mission.” 

The corporate plans to lift more cash over the following few years to construct a fleet of 4 autos to start out providing de-orbiting companies by 2025. Usov stated de-orbiting is the low hanging fruit as a of it’s a solution to instantly assist satellite tv for pc operators earn money. 

Operators at present take geostationary satellites out of service to a graveyard orbit six to eight months earlier than they’re out of gas. De-orbiting companies would permit operators to maintain the satellites in operation for a number of extra months and proceed to generate revenues, Usov stated. These further revenues would greater than pay for the $10 million to $15 million de-orbiting service.

Usov expects de-orbiting companies will likely be about 60% to 70% of the corporate’s enterprise. He’s additionally courting operators which can be planning to construct new satellites and engineering them for future life extension companies to allow them to keep in operation for 20 years or extra.

Obstacles to in-orbit servicing

NSR analyst Hussain Bokhari warned that regardless of enthusiasm for in-orbit servicing, the shortage of clear technical and secure operation requirements might hinder the {industry}. 

Usov agrees. “On-orbit servicing ecosystem received’t be doable with out clear requirements for each know-how and points,” he stated. 

That is now being completed by the Consortium for Execution of Rendezvous and Servicing Operations (CONFERS), an industry-led effort to develop technical and operations requirements for on-orbit satellite tv for pc servicing, rendezvous and proximity operations. 

Requirements will make the event of on-orbit servicing know-how “extra and clear to the entire gamers and to the general public as nicely,” stated Usov. One of many issues are dual-use autos that could possibly be mistaken for anti-satellite weapons. 

“We glance to the way forward for on-orbit servicing with optimism,” Usov stated.

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