10 thoughts on “Space Assembly”

  1. …a fraction of the money poured down the SLS rathole had gone into this sort of thing.

    I’m reminded of your Space Show appearance where a caller opined that SLS delays were because SLS has been underfunded. Your reaction was priceless.

  2. Money isn’t the issue. We print and spend on whatever we want. The issue is the want part of the equation and who is doing the wanting.

  3. If half of the money and time spent on Webb had gone towards developing orbital assembly, it seems like it would have probably cost the same overall amount of money and time, but we’d also have a much more serviceable telescope as well as a more mature and robust architecture for the next big thing.

    I don’t have any figures to back that up, it just feels intuitive to me.

  4. Huh. I seem to recall a concept called Orbital Manufacturing and Construction (OMAC) being kicked around at DARPA about six years ago. It proposed putting a factory and parts warehouse into orbit, so that spacecraft could be assembled in space – avoiding the horrendous burden of structural weight, design, and test of s system to survive the eight minutes of launch – resulting in cutting the time of spacecraft assembly and delivery from years to weeks. It had the added advantage of removing the link between launch schedules and spacecraft deliveries, while providing the launch industry with a steady market for delivering parts rather than fully developed spacecraft. That would eliminate the need for launch service providers to continually search out prospective satellite customers.

    Oh, yes, I remember now. That was my idea, during my detail as a DARPA program manager. It received a huge amount of industry interest, but none from DARPA management. In fact, I was told that OMAC would never be a DARPA program. Instead, they concentrated on launch systems, a field which was already crowded and waiting for a shakeout. Not a single DARPA launch system program in existence before, during, or after my tenure there produced any results whatsoever.

    OMAC did get some interest from the DARPA PMs who were trying to develop a new technology to fly on a spacecraft. Their interest arose from the one problem that always plagued them, namely that of getting their spacecraft launched into space. The traditional process of buying a launch – even a ride-share – usually took longer than the typical tenure of a DARPA PM. I would market OMAC to these people with the slogan: “You want to know when you can get your satellite into space? It’s already there, it just needs to be assembled.”

    I don’t see this as being as well thought-out as OMAC, but it’s at least a step in the right direction.

    1. Yeah, but your program probably didn’t allow for sniffing the carbon composite glue like this one does….

    2. It is a cool idea. Send up all the parts for various types of cube sat, or larger of course, and have a tech build on demand.

      With the coming reduction is costs to access space, sending the parts up would be rather trivial but what about assembly and what would it cost to hire someone to do it part time?

      1. OTOH, reduction in the costs of launch may reduce the need to build things in orbit. Can’t really tell which way it’ll go at this stage.

  5. I can remember when only the Space Studies Institute was funding research into areas like these. Gratifying to see that some of these concepts are becoming more mainstream, and it indicates SSI was on the right track early on.

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