Today’s Tidbits: November 8, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: November 8, 2018

Here are’s tidbits for November 8, 2018:  CONFERS conference; and science at the Gateway.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

CONFERS Conference

The Consortium for Execution of Rendezvous and Servicing Operations (CONFERS) held its first conference on November 8 in Washington, D.C.  One of the first areas of agreement was that they need a better acronym.

CONFERS is an industry-led consortium of U.S. and international companies that are developing or plan to develop capabilities for what is broadly known as “satellite servicing.”  The term is imprecise and refers to everything from attaching a new propulsion device to move a satellite from one orbital location to another or extend its lifetime, to refueling a satellite in orbit, to repairing a satellite in orbit, to assembling large spacecraft in space.  CONFERS is receiving seed funding from DARPA to “research, develop, and publish non-binding, consensus-derived technical and operations standards” for on-orbit satellite servicing (OOS) and rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO).

At the conference, CONFERS Executive Director Brian Weeden of the Secure World Foundation released the Guiding Principles for Commercial RPO and OOS that was approved by the CONFERS membership the day before.  They are posted here: [].

Several U.S. and international companies, including Northrop Grumman (through its Space Logistics LLC subsidiary) and MAXAR Technologies (through its Space Systems Loral unit), are working on satellite servicing systems.  From the U.S. government side, DARPA is developing technologies for a Remote Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellite (RSGS) system for satellites in geosynchronous orbit 35,800 kilometers (22,300 miles) above the equator, while NASA is developing technologies for RESTORE-L, a system for satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO). live tweeted portions of the conference. Here is a sample of what we posted. Check our Twitter feed (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more.  (In the third tweet, “Reuter” is Jim Reuter,  NASA Acting Associate Administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate.)

Science at the Gateway

At the same time as the CONFERS conference, the Space Studies Board (SSB) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine was meeting in Irvine, CA to discuss opportunities for science that will be available when NASA builds its new Gateway in lunar orbit.  The Gateway, previously called the Deep Space Gateway and the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, is a small space station NASA plans to put into a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit around the Moon to support lunar surface operations and perhaps serve as a transfer point for human spacecraft going to Mars.  It is small compared to the International Space Station (ISS) and will not be permanently occupied like ISS.

NASA is seeking input from the science community as to how it could utilize the Gateway.  SSB will hold a workshop on that topic in the spring.  This meeting was a prelude to get ideas on where to focus the discussion.  One area of overlap between CONFERS and this discussion is the possibility of using the Gateway as a base for in-space construction of very large space telescopes. Speakers at the SSB meeting were divided on whether the Gateway would be useful for that. live tweeted portions of that meeting, too.  Here is a sample. Check our Twitter feed (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more. (“Crusan” is Jason Crusan, head of Advanced Exploration Systems at NASA HQ; Jonathan Lunine is Director of the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science at Cornell University.)

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