Geo-stationary satellites are usually very large, and weigh anything between 3 – 7 tonnes. They are expensive to build, launch and insure. And when a satellite fails or suffers a problem it is a major nightmare for the operator impacting services and revenues.
There are a handful of would-be satellite rescue plans under consideration, including so-called ‘space tugs’ which orbit like a vehicle recovery service until they are needed.
But GapSat (GapSat Development Group) has another idea. Speaking at the APSAT event in Jakarta, GapSat’s CEO Gregg Daffner, says the costs to replace like-for-like satellites in the event of an orbital failure would be hugely expensive because the operator would have to lease a satellite that’s probably too large for the emergency task, and thus waste unneeded capacity.
GapSat’s concept is to build small geo-stationary satellites, weighing between 250-1000 kgs and significantly smaller than a typical orbital craft.
British Virgin Islands-domiciled GapSat is putting its money into GapSat-1, a small satellite that is being built by Lockheed Martin-backed Terran Orbital. The order was confirmed last September, and has a planned launch in Q3/2020. The satellite will be an all-electric vehicle offering bandwidth in C-, Ku, Ka as well as Q/V bands.
Daffner says GapSat’s services are frequently used when there is a need for a short/medium term augmentation of capacity at an existing location, when a satellite fails at launch to reach the desired orbit, when there is a catastrophic or partial failure of an in-orbit satellite, or if a new orbit location demands initiation of service. GapSat will soon offer Bring-Into-Use (BIU) services with its GapSat-1 spacecraft.