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NASA scraps OSAM-1 mission for satellite servicing technology.

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TLDR:

  • NASA cancels OSAM-1 satellite servicing technology mission due to significant cost and schedule overruns.
  • The project, initially named Restore-L, started about a decade ago but faced delays and cost increases.

In a recent announcement, NASA revealed the cancellation of the On-Orbit Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing (OSAM) 1 mission, a project aimed at demonstrating satellite servicing technologies. The mission, which started as Restore-L about ten years ago, faced significant challenges related to technical issues, cost overruns, and schedule delays. Originally planned to launch in 2020 to refuel the Landsat 7 spacecraft, the mission was later renamed OSAM-1 in 2020 to incorporate additional payloads for in-space assembly and manufacturing activities.

Despite having abundant funding from Congress, with appropriations exceeding NASA’s requests, the project failed to meet its objectives due to various challenges. A key factor in the project’s difficulties was the performance of Maxar, a contractor responsible for supplying the spacecraft bus and robotics payload for the mission. Delays in the delivery of components and technical issues with the robotics payload added to the project’s woes.

In light of the cancellation, NASA is now focusing on an orderly shutdown process, including transferring hardware and exploring potential partnerships or alternative uses for the technology developed for OSAM-1. This decision comes at a time when many companies are actively pursuing satellite servicing technologies using alternative, more cooperative approaches that simplify the process of servicing satellites.

While the cancellation of OSAM-1 marks the end of a long and challenging project, it also serves as a learning opportunity for the space industry. By recognizing the difficulties in developing spacecraft for servicing unprepared satellites, stakeholders can pivot towards more feasible and efficient approaches to satellite servicing in the future.

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