SSL receives new Nasa funding for Dragonfly on-orbit satellite assembly programme


Space Systems Loral (SSL) has secured the next phase of funding from Nasa to continue the development of its Dragonfly on-orbit satellite assembly project.

The new funds will be used to design a semi-autonomous robotic system for in-space satellite assembly for use in both government and commercial space initiatives.

Once developed, Dragonfly is expected to support more complex on-orbit assembly and servicing, as well as various future missions such as deep space exploration, persistent satellite platforms, in-space habitats and others.

Nasa Washington headquarters TDM programme executive Trudy Kortes said: “Nasa relies on commercial innovation as exemplified by the Dragonfly team.

“Transformative technologies such as these will, in time, lead to more affordable, safer human access to space and more efficient, longer-lasting satellites, probes and other space hardware.

“Nasa relies on commercial innovation as exemplified by the Dragonfly team."

“Today our future in space looks brighter and more robust than ever.”

The latest round of Nasa funding follows a successful ground demonstration of the Dragonfly developments carried out by SSL and its programme partners, including MDA, Nasa and Tethers Unlimited.

The demonstration featured an ultra-light robotic system and advanced command and control software, which is designed to make use of existing spacecraft equipment and capabilities such as a standard geostationary (GEO) spacecraft platform and processor.

It has verified SSL’s concept of highly skilled on-orbit operations that are anticipated to promote next generation satellite architectures.

SSL group president Dario Zamarian said: “Our work with Nasa to develop next-generation robotic assembly on orbit has the potential to change the way satellites are built and launched and will also be important for future space architectures that support exploration and deep space missions.”

Last month, SSL completed the preliminary design review (PDR) of Nasa’s Restore-L mission that aims to provide satellite servicing in low Earth orbit (LEO).