On August 22nd two Galileo/GPS satellites were placed into a useless orbit. Now, an Israeli company is suggesting it can build a micro-satellite which would – in effect – rescue the two Galileo craft.
Effective Space Solutions, based in Tel Aviv, says its DeOrbiter proposed rescue satellite could save not only these two Galileo satellites, but could be the model for rescuing broadcast satellites that have either run out of fuel or need to have their lives extended.
Effective Space Solutions say they held a meeting in London with leading space insurers who say that their concept is one that the insurance industry could back. CEO Arie Halsband says his rescue satellite could be built and launched in 18 months.
While the Israeli company is not the first to propose this sort of rescue mission, the stranded Galileo satellites are considered ideal tests for the rescues given that they are in fairly low orbits.
The 250-kilogramme DeOrbiter uses Ion-electric propulsion with very little of its own fuel onboard (which is why it is so light) but is also designed to be used and re-used up to 20 times, each time attaching itself to a failed satellite (many of which these days have a standard interface that would allow connection to another craft) and using its ion-engines to raise the target craft back to its correct orbit.
However, there’s a challenge, and this revolves around the space insurance market. Once a satellite fails it usually then belongs to its insurers. But the orbital slot is still ‘owned’ by the satellite’s operator. These legal problems will have to be resolved.