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US to set ‘Space Tug’ standards

There are a couple of satellite builders looking to build ‘rescue tugs’ in order to provide help for ailing satellites. Now DARPA (the USA’s Defense Research Projects Agency) is looking to set standards and practices for future on-orbit satellite servicing.

Most of the world’s major satellite operators are looking at contracting with one or other of these ‘rescue tug’ proposals, and it is known that SES of Luxembourg is an enthusiastic supporter of some key schemes, in particular that of the orbital refuelling concept.

DARPA’s proposals are designed to ensure common connectivity standards for robotic spacecraft which could be used to inspect, repair/refuel and then move on to another mission.

One of DARPA’s fears is that because communications satellites are hugely valuable there could be a slew of complicated insurance claims if something were to go wrong while a repair/refuelling mission was taking place.

“Right now there are no laws and regulations in place to cover commercial on commercial rendezvous and proximity operations,” said Brad Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office.

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