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Selenian Boondocks

An Updated Propellant Depot Taxonomy Part II: Distributed LEO Nano-Depots

16 Sep 2020, 18:00 UTC
An Updated Propellant Depot Taxonomy Part II: Distributed LEO Nano-Depots
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For this first type of propellant depot, we have an idea that several of us seem to have independently realized. My company is developing a family of servicing tugs focused on servicing customers in Low Earth Orbit. We realized pretty early on that a lot of the economics of satellite servicing depended on how many missions a given servicer could complete over its lifetime. Much like with reusable launch vehicles, the more missions you could spread a servicer/tug’s replacement cost over, the lower the cost per mission. Which leads you really quickly to the idea of refueling. On the one hand you could try and make your servicer capable of doing a ton of missions off of a single tank, but that quickly bloats your vehicle, and you end up spending most of your propellant lugging around the propellant for future missions1. So it was obvious that to maximize the economics of LEO servicers you want to be able to refuel early and refuel often. Last year as part of an AFRL SBIR Phase I contract, we worked with SpaceWorks to create an economic model for LEO servicing with our Bulldog vehicle2, to try and figure out how small of ...

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