Orbital Robotics: In-space Maintenance

Orbital Robotics: In-space Maintenance

The geostationary orbit (GEO) has a high commercial and strategic value and the satellite systems using it for telecommunication, TV broadcasting and weather forecasting represent a significant value in terms of capital investment and revenues. The unique characteristics of GEO makes it the most crowded orbit around earth. In January 2002 there were 900 reported objects in GEO of which only about 28% were controlled, operational satellites. The high concentration of satellites, the great potential for failures and the ease of moving between objects in GEO made attractive the idea of a multi-satellite repair vehicle (similar to a roadside rescue service). ESA has studied several Geostationary Servicing concepts since the early ’90s.

MEO Constellation Servicing

Satellite navigation systems such as USA’s Global Positioning System (GPS) and the European Galileo, have large constellation of satellites in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO). The Galileo constellation will be deployed into 3 orbit planes located respectively at 0°, +56°, -56° inclination and comprising each 9 operational satellites and one spare. Based on the experience of the Global Positioning System (GPS) constellation, it is possible to conceive that the high-precision clocks may require some technological upgrade. The ESA A&R section has investigated the use a servicing vehicle capable to replace/upgrade the high-precision clocks of all satellites in a single orbit plane.


The main areas of investigation are: machine?vision inspection techniques, non vision sensing and an orbital environment laboratory simulation. Machine?vision is an inspection utilizes automatic comparison of new and reference images to detect on-?orbit induced damage such as micro?meteorite impacts.

DLR Autonomous C-Space Exploration and Object Inspection



NASA & CSA Robotic Refueling Mission

Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM)