Space Tugs will save operators “millions”
October 28, 2022
By Chris Forrester
A report from Virginia-based BryceTech says that Space Tugs (or more correctly Orbital Transfer Vehicles/OTV) which rescue failing satellites in orbit will help save satellite operators “millions” as the technology develops.
However, this is not a ‘jam tomorrow’ claim or forecast given that there are already such rescue Tugs in orbit. 2022 will see six missions launched and some capable of in-orbit satellite relocation. But by 2024, the industry will see OTVs come on steam and capable of on-orbit inspection, and on-orbit autonomous maintenance. 2025 will see on-orbit refuelling become a reality for geostationary satellites, says Bryce.
For example, Spaceflight’s Sherpa vehicles already offer a number of ‘next generation’ variants including Sherpa’s LTE ‘Go Far’ units which carries chemical bi-propellant and designed for low Earth orbit missions and in 2023 its ‘Go Beyond’ craft will cope with geostationary satellites.
BryceTech says that the use of OTVs will soar and generate $100s of millions in revenue for space companies over the next 10 years.
Bryce says the industry is already comparing the use of OTVs to that of terrestrial logistics companies where a cargo might be moved from a ship, to a truck and to a van for final delivery.
There’s also new thinking in that satellite operators – who would normally be fiercely competitive – are contemplating working together on OTV missions to share costs and where the spacecraft might be scheduled for multiple tasks in orbit.