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Harvesting and re-using valuable components from retired, nonworking satellites in GEO

The goal of the Phoenix program is to develop and demonstrate technologies to cooperatively harvest and re-use valuable components from retired, nonworking satellites in GEO and demonstrate the ability to create new space systems at greatly reduced cost. Phoenix seeks to demonstrate around-the-clock, globally persistent communication capability for warfighters more economically, by robotically removing and re-using GEO-based space apertures and antennas from de-commissioned satellites in the graveyard or disposal orbit. The Phoenix program envisions developing a new class of very small ‘satlets,’ similar to nano satellites, which could be sent to the GEO region more economically as a “ride along” on a commercial satellite launch, and then attached to the antenna of a non-functional cooperating satellite robotically, essentially creating a new space system. A payload orbital delivery system, or PODS, will also be designed to safely house the satlets for transport aboard a commercial satellite launch. A separate on-orbit ‘tender,’ or satellite servicing satellite is also expected to be built and launched into GEO. Once the tender arrives on orbit, the PODS would then be released from its ride-along host and link up with the tender to become part of the satellite servicing station’s ‘tool belt.’ The tender plans to be equipped with grasping mechanical arms for removing the satlets and components from the PODS using unique space tools to be developed in the program.


SkTech/MIT Initiative

The mission of Skolkovo Tech (SkTech) will be to educate students, advance knowledge, and foster innovation in order to address critical scientific, technological, and innovation challenges and gaps facing Russia and the world. MIT will provide assistance in the creation of the initial academic Master’s and PhD degree programs, in each of the Science and Technology Programs. The second major component of the SkTech concept besides education is the establishment of Research Centers (RCs) in the five following areas: Biomedical Science and Technology, Space Science and Technology, Nuclear Science and Technology, Energy Science and Technology, Information Science and Technology. Finally, the third core element of SkTech will be an integral structure to foster and link research and education with innovation and entrepreneurship through the establishment of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI), which MIT will also assist in creating. Within this initiative, the MIT SSL will propose a mission concept study for a lunar far-side radio observatory optimized to observe the neutral hydrogen 21-cm emission from the intergalactic medium during the dark ages of cosmic structure formation and the early stages of cosmic reionization.

Space Logistics Project

Research on lifecycle impacts of resource logistics on space exploration.

The Space Logistics Project broadly researches the lifecycle impacts of resource logistics on space exploration. Future beyond low-Earth orbit exploration is expected to follow an integrated campaign model involving the reuse of elements over long durations with limited resupply opportunities, a significant change from the single-mission model of Apollo. Planning for this type of exploration requires advancements in both the macro-logistics of mission design and the micro-logistics of managing resources at the exploration site. Past efforts within the Space Logistics Project include a field study to the Haughton-Mars Project Research Station in the high Canadian Arctic to investigate logistics in an analog extreme environment, development of Rule-Based Analytic Asset Management for Space Exploration Systems (RAMSES) - an RFID tagging system for micro-logistics successfully evaluated in a micro-gravity test flight, an architectural study for in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) systems for oxygen production on the lunar surface, and development of SpaceNet - an open source simulation tool to evaluate logistics in exploration campaigns ranging from the International Space Station, near-Earth asteroid missions, lunar outpost build-up, and flexible exploration of Mars. Present and future efforts seek to extend simulation and planning tools to capture independent actors of multi-national and commercial partnerships in collaborative exploration architectures and a focused study of sustainable habitation with high loop closure Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS) as a key driver of logistics demands.


A prototype vehicle to develop hopping GNC software and operational experience, as part of a Google Lunar X-Prize (GLXP) collaboration with Draper Laboratory.

The Terrestrial Artificial Lunar And Reduced gravIty Simulator (TALARIS) project has designed, built, and tested a prototype lunar hopping vehicle, which operates in an Earthside lab facility using dual propulsion systems. An air-breathing propulsion system uses electric ducted fans to offset Earth's high gravity by delivering thrust equal to 5/6 of the vehicle's weight, and provides an environment dynamically similar to the one encountered on the Moon. The second propulsion system uses nitrogen thrusters to emulate the behavior of impulsive engines, such as would be used on a space vehicle. This arrangement allows for testing of GNC technologies and operational methods on the Earth. The TALARIS project is a collaboration between Draper Laboratory and MIT as part of the Google Lunar X-Prize (GLXP). Hopping technology and techniques developed as part of this project have the potential to be game-changers in the exploration of planetary surfaces. After the GLXP concludes, the technology will be extended to applications on other planetary surfaces, including potentially Mars, Europa, Titan, and some large asteroids.