Report: Space tugs will develop rapidly
February 14, 2020
By Chris Forrester
A report from Northern Sky Research (NSR) forecasts that over $3.1 billion in cumulative revenues could be generated by 2029 for applications such as satellite life extension, relocation, de-orbiting, salvage, robotics, and space situational awareness. NSR’s analysis shows progress of this much-anticipated technology and business as launches of satellite constellations continue, and there is growing concerns and opportunity to service in-orbit infrastructure to more accurately and efficiently manage orbital assets.
“The in-orbit servicing (IoS) market stands ready to develop quickly, as Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Vehicle launch in late 2019 kick-starts a flurry of life extension and space tugs in-orbit service technologies. Meanwhile, increasing partnerships between players and ‘future-proofing’ of satellites, such as OneWeb’s recent announcement to install a grappling handle on its satellites to help with future de-orbiting, are aiding the commencement of services and their sustainability,” said NSR.
“GEO satellites were once isolated, but missions once ‘one and done’ are no longer the only available option,” noted Dallas Kasaboski, NSR Senior Analyst and report lead author. “Space as the ‘next frontier’ is increasingly becoming a service environment where demand for greater control of orbital infrastructure, from beginning through end of life, is a reality,” he adds.
NSR’s analysis of the risks, challenges, players, and opportunity of IoS technology & services, finds that non-GEO satellites will drive 75 per cent of demand. However, Geostationary [demand] will control over 66 per cent of those cumulative revenues generated by 2029, due to higher complexity missions in higher orbits.
BSR said: “Once in-orbit demonstration of life extension missions are successful, NSR notes that more complicated applications, such as robotic manipulation and salvage will follow. At the same time, Space Situational Awareness (SSA), newly represented and forecasted in NSR’s report, is becoming even more globally recognized and supported.”