SSL, a Maxar Technologies company, and a leading provider of innovative satellites and spacecraft systems, announced today it was selected by NASA for two separate public-private partnerships to develop two vital “Tipping Point” spacecraft technologies. NASA’s Tipping Point awards are designed to foster the development of commercial space capabilities and benefit future NASA missions. A technology is considered by NASA to be at a tipping point if an investment in a demonstration is likely to result in a high likelihood of infusion into a commercial space application, and significant improvement in the ability to successfully bring the technology to market.
The company will collaborate with NASA on developments to accelerate innovation for the new space economy and for future exploration missions. The two technologies aim to expand the capabilities and resiliency of spacecraft through in-orbit refueling for electric propulsion and enabling space transportation with highly efficient, high-power solar electric propulsion. These innovations demonstrate SSL’s ongoing commitment to, and expanding role in, the development of next-generation space infrastructure.
In-Space Xenon Transfer for Satellite, Servicing and Exploration Vehicle Replenishment and Life Extension will unlock new possibilities for on-orbit servicing and refueling by demonstrating that fuel transfer can be performed reliably in space.
High Efficiency 6kW Dual Mode Electric Propulsion Engine for Broad Mission Applications technology will leverage SSL’s long history of innovation in electric propulsion to develop a highly flexible, dual-mode power processing unit capable of providing variable voltage, increasing overall mission efficiency and providing greater power, flexibility, and velocity for future missions.
“SSL is a leader in electric propulsion and robotics for space missions and is uniquely positioned to help U.S. government agencies achieve their goals with confidence,” said Richard White, president of SSL Government Systems. “Powerful and cost-effective propulsion systems and reuse of assets already on-orbit will ultimately help build a better world and propel humanity’s exploration of space.”
As a pioneer in the field of electric propulsion, SSL’s extensive experience includes 100,000 hours of active electric propulsion thruster operation across more than 30 spacecraft currently in orbit. Also an industry pioneer in space robotics, the company provided all five robotic arms for the Mars rovers and landers, including the arm currently headed to Mars on the InSight Lander. The company is also leveraging this unrivaled heritage to build robotics for NASA’s Restore-L satellite refueling mission in low Earth orbit, support DARPA’s RSGS satellite servicing mission in geosynchronous orbit and demonstrate concepts for in-orbit habitat assembly through NASA’s NextSTEP program.
SSL has a long history of collaborating with NASA to accelerate technologies for its next-generation mission needs, and it is partnered with the agency on another Tipping Point mission called Dragonfly, enabling innovative on-orbit robotic satellite assembly. SSL also completed a study for NASA for a module that will provide high-power electric propulsion and control for the agency’s Lunar Orbital Gateway concept.