Orbital operations company Astroscale has revealed new details about its approach to refueling satellites in space, as part of a $25.5 million project exploring the concept with the Space Force. Their solution is a bit like a AAA truck traveling at 25,000 MPH.

The concept of on-orbit servicing and repair is attractive to anyone who does want to see n’t a $100 million financial investment literally burn off. Numerous satellites tend to be completely practical after many years in room, but merely are lacking the gas to help keep properly to their assigned trajectory and altitude, and must be allowed to deorbit instead.

You could put up another $100 million satellite — or perhaps, as companies like Astroscale and OrbitFab have proposed, you could spend a tenth of that to do a gas run from the surface to orbit that is geosynchronous

Of program, many satellites aren’t built to be refueled, but which could easily alter — even in the event just how to about carrying it out is an question that is open. Astroscale won a Space Force contract last Summer to explore the possibility in orbit, and the company just published how it plans to do so.

The Astroscale Prototype Servicer for Refueling, or APS-R, is a smallish (funnily enough, “the size of a gas pump”) satellite that will ascend to GEO — around 300 kilometers up — and then descend on a “prepared client” with the correct port that is refueling. (This customer remains an.g that is“e” in the diagram, so there’s no official plan yet.)

After refueling it, the APS-R will back off and perform an inspection of the client satellite, looking for any fuel leaks or other issues its operators might want to check. Then it ascends to GEO+ again and rendezvouses with a Defense Innovation Unit RAPIDS fuel depot, which is exactly what it sounds like: an gas that is orbital.

Image Credits: Astroscale

Some various other principles of space-based refueling select the general ease of use of maintaining all of the gasoline regarding the art it self as opposed to acting as a crisis shuttle between your section therefore the consumer (ergo the AAA contrast). But given that military seems to believe that a huge, geostationary stress vessel packed with hydrazine may be the less dangerous choice, Astroscale is certainly going with this. For several we realize there might be a version that is self-contained non-military usage down the road.

This combined task — fundamentally split down the center cost-wise — remains just within the “concept of businesses” stage, but Astroscale wants to provide it by 2026. Definitely we’ll hear more info on this as well as other room sustainability projects well before then.