Lockheed Martin officials said on April 17 that two cubesats that were sent to geostationary Earth orbit in November did moves close to each other and showed off other technologies for in-orbit servicing.
The Lockheed Martin’s In-space Upgrade Satellite System (Linuss) experiment went into orbit on the USSF-44 national security mission, which was sent into space by a SpaceX Falcon Heavy.
The two CubeSats, which are each about the size of a toaster, were released 300 kilometers above geostationary orbit from a ring-shaped secondary payload that held many smallsats.
They have launched three days apart, about 750 kilometers apart, and a month later they were within 400 meters of each other, Linus’s program manager, Karla Brown, told reporters at a news meeting at Lockheed Martin’s technology center at the Catalyst Campus.
One of the CubeSats was a service car, and the other was an object that lived in space. She said that as the experiment goes on, she thinks that the satellites will get even closer, to about 200 meters.
Brown said that the most important goal was to test the AI algorithms that would be needed to do a space servicing trip.
Plans to Develop Servicing Vehicles
She also said that Lockheed Martin has plans for the long run to make service vehicles for the commercial and government markets. “Our future vehicles will be able to dock with either a cooperative or uncooperative satellite and make any needed upgrades or repairs.”
Brown said that these servicing trips would include refueling satellites while they are in space, updating their software, and finding other ways to make them last longer.
Brown said, “The maneuvering technology and software could be used for any kind of mission.” “Linuss’s success was really a test of the algorithms needed to move in that way.”
The experiment also helped show off a new ground system that uses S-band communications to direct and control the company’s small LM 50 satellites, which it is building with bus maker Terran Orbital.
“Our planes are still in the air. So, we want to keep going with the example to get closer and keep showing that these algorithms work,” Brown said.
Another goal of the project was to test space domain awareness cameras and a docking device that would be used by a servicing vehicle to refuel another satellite or attach a new sensor. One of the Linuss cubesats brought the port called Augmentation System Port Interface (ASPIN), which Lockheed Martin is trying to bring to the market.