An organization representing the satellite servicing sector is working on a set of guidelines that it hopes will aid in the development of the nascent field. Executive director in charge of Consortium for Execution of Rendezvous and Servicing Operations (CONFERS), Brian Weeden, stated three standards are in different phases of development to enable a “thriving and sustainable” satellite servicing industry in a presentation at the Global Satellite Servicing Forum on September 29.
Standards like this have fostered the emergence of an ecosystem of firms and goods in other sectors, from automobiles to the smartphones, while also enhancing safety and reliability. He explained, “We don’t have any of it for satellites, in part because we don’t have standards.”
The first of these standards codifies a series of standards and best practices for the satellite service produced by CONFERS, including concerns like compliance with legal and regulatory requirements as well as responsible operations. CONFERS will update those documents in the coming month to reflect modest adjustments based on lessons gained from current satellite servicing efforts, according to Weeden.
He explained, “They’re leveraging the CONFERS ideas and practices as the foundation for what will be the world’s first satellite servicing standard.” The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) will be in charge of this standard, which is formally known as ISO 24330. The paper is being worked on by a variety of government and industry specialists, and he expects it to be finished by the close of this year or even early next year.
The development of a second standard, fiducials, or marks on spacecraft needed to assist proximity operations began earlier this year. Those fiducials can aid a servicing vehicle in identifying and approaching a spaceship appropriately.
This standard is being established in collaboration with American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, that formed a standards group including CONFERS members and other specialists, according to Weeden. He didn’t provide a timetable for finishing that standard.
The development of the third standard for spaceship refueling interfaces has recently begun. “Many satellite makers and clients have stated they would like to see a standardized refueling interface in order to build a market for the in-space refueling,” he added. CONFERS has formed a group to define that standard, and it plans to approach a standards production organization by the beginning of next year.
The creation of standards has caused considerable friction in the industry. Companies recognize the advantages of such standards, but they are concerned that creating them too early may hinder innovation. In a discussion at the conference on September 29, Pam Melroy, who serves as the NASA Deputy Administrator, helped establish CONFERS as deputy director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, expressed her support for standards development. “I recognize that there is a genuine tension between contending and cooperating,” she said, “which is why some private firms are hesitant to agree to set standards.”