Sat. Dec 9th, 2023
    The Future of In-Space Servicing: Collaborating for Success

    Nearly two decades ago, a groundbreaking U.S. government mission known as Orbital Express paved the way for the transformation of the U.S. space economy. Led by DARPA and NASA, this mission showcased the potential of autonomous in-space servicing and proved that collaboration is key to achieving safe and cost-effective satellite servicing in orbit.

    Since then, in-space servicing, assembly, and manufacturing (ISAM) capabilities have become essential for securing and sustaining the future space economy. However, despite advancements, ISAM has yet to fully mature or become mainstream. While several global companies are developing ISAM technologies, most are still in the development stages. Nevertheless, a handful of companies are already deploying services, and some satellites in geostationary orbit are equipped with life-extension modules.

    The demand for ISAM capabilities is growing as longer lifecycles and evolvable satellites are being designed with servicing in mind. Commercial companies are conducting groundbreaking zero-gravity research, and plans for human and robotic missions in cislunar space and beyond are underway, with autonomous refueling and servicing identified as crucial mission capabilities. To protect these interests within an increasingly competitive space domain, organizations like the U.S. Space Command are emphasizing dynamic space operations that rely on in-space servicing.

    However, without proper coordination, the proliferation of solutions and standards for routine ISAM operations could limit the growth potential and interoperability of the U.S. ISAM marketplace. To address this challenge, the NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate has launched the Consortium for Space Mobility and ISAM Capabilities (COSMIC). This consortium, established in response to the National ISAM Implementation Plan, aims to improve communication and collaboration between the government, industry, and academia.

    COSMIC brings together stakeholders from different sectors to coordinate and accelerate the universal adoption of ISAM technologies. By focusing on research and technology, demonstration infrastructure, missions and ecosystems, policy and regulation, and workforce development, COSMIC aims to make ISAM a routine, efficient, and cost-effective part of space operations. This effort builds upon the work of other entities like CONFERS, which fosters collaboration and standards development in the ISAM field.

    In early November, COSMIC will convene the nation’s leading ISAM experts for its kickoff meeting, signaling a critical milestone in the pursuit of ISAM. Joined by senior keynote speakers from the White House, NASA, and the Space Force, COSMIC aims to bring together all stakeholders and propel ISAM into reality.

    The future of ISAM is within our reach, but it requires a whole-of-nation effort. National strategic priorities and collaborative initiatives like COSMIC provide the necessary framework to establish global leadership in ISAM. It is a pivotal moment in space exploration, and by aligning our efforts and expertise, we can make ISAM a routine part of our space activities.

    Q: What is ISAM?
    A: ISAM stands for In-Space Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing. It refers to the capability of performing various tasks, such as satellite refueling and hardware transfers, in space.

    Q: What is COSMIC?
    A: COSMIC stands for Consortium for Space Mobility and ISAM Capabilities. It is a collaboration between government, industry, and academia aimed at coordinating and accelerating the adoption of ISAM technologies.

    Q: Why is ISAM important?
    A: ISAM capabilities are essential for securing and sustaining the future space economy. They enable longer lifecycles for satellites, support advanced research in zero-gravity environments, and are crucial for future human and robotic missions.

    Source: The Aerospace Corporation (