The Astroscale U.S team and our Israel R&D team have developed an advanced on-orbit servicing capability, building on our deep experience designing and delivering GEO missions.
When satellites reach their end of life, the disposal approaches between LEO and GEO differs:
- In LEO: Satellites are expected to lower their altitudes such that they will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up within 25-years.
- In GEO: Satellites should ‘retire to graveyard’, an orbit approximately 300-km above geostationary altitude. Once in graveyard the spacecraft are passivated to eliminate any sources of energy and the satellite is powered down.
But why exactly are satellites retired to begin with? These two reasons are the most common:
- Propulsion (the most common): The spacecraft simply runs out of the fuel it needs to maintain its position in GEO. In most cases, the payload is still capable of providing useful service for many years at this point.
- Power: Due to degradation of the solar panels the spacecraft runs out of sufficient power to operate its payload, along with the other critical satellite subsystems.
Astroscale’s Life Extension Service (LEX™) removes propulsion limitations by maintaining both the Client’s orbital position and attitude, providing operators millions of dollars in ongoing revenue through continued safe use of their existing fleet assets. The LEX service also provides operators the flexibility to redeploy assets into new GEO orbital slots, along with peace of mind that comes from the ability to safely re-orbit Client spacecraft should that be required. LEXI can dock and undock with many times, providing these services to multiple Client vehicles over its lifetime.
KEY CAPABILITIES OFFERED BY OUR LEX SERVICE
- Life Extension: Station Keeping and Attitude Control
- The LEXI Servicer uses four robotic arms to position electric thrusters for optimal station-keeping and momentum management of the joint stack, while ensuring no plume impingement on the Client. LEXI also provides full attitude control of the Client vehicle, ensuring accurate pointing of the payload for the period of service.
- Inclination Correction
- LEXI can stabilize or reduce orbital inclination of Client satellites.
- GEO Relocation
- LEXI can relocate Clients to new GEO orbital slots, allowing service to new customers.
- Relocation to Graveyard
- LEXI can transfer the Client satellite to the internationally agreed safe orbit at the end of its useful life.
Astroscale’s Life Extension service offers a flexible, robust, and cost-effective solution to support satellite operators in their fleet management in orbit. Curious about why it’s beneficial for satellite operators to utilize satellite servicing? Stay tuned for our next LEX blog.
In the meantime, download our LEXI brochure!
Acronyms and other common references in this blog:
|GEO||Geostationary Earth Orbit|
|LEO||Low Earth Orbit|
|LEXI ™||Life Extension In-Orbit|
|On-Orbit Services||Capabilities to support flexible use and mission optimization of space assets throughout operational life|
|25 year deorbit||Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies|