Lockheed Martin releases open-source satellite interface for in-orbit docking

The technical design data for the Mission Augmentation Port can be used by satellite manufacturers

COLORADO SPRINGS — On April 4, Lockheed Martin released the Specifications of a docking adapter which could be used by manufacturers to make satellites interoperable and more easily updated with new technology in orbit.

The specifications for the Mission Augmentation Port (MAP) can be used by designers to create their own docking adapters, Lockheed Martin said.

The company used the MAP standard to develop its own docking device called the Augmentation System Port Interface (ASPIN).

“With this technology, we are able to upgrade operational spacecraft at the speed of technology,” said Paul Pelley, senior director of advanced programs at Lockheed Martin Space.

“Just as USB was developed to standardize computer connections, these documents aim to standardize how spacecraft connect to each other in orbit,” he said.

Maintenance of satellites in orbit is usually associated with refueling. That’s just one aspect of life extension, Pelley said. There is also a need to keep satellites technologically advanced, particularly large geostationary spacecraft that remain in service for decades. A standard docking port interface could facilitate the insertion of new processors, data storage devices, or sensors, and some satellite components could be replaced with new hardware.

“What Lockheed Martin envisions goes beyond filling the tank to extend the life of the mission,” he said.

Eric Brown, Lockheed Martin’s senior director of military space mission strategy, said the company has tested the ASPIN adapter in simulations and plans to fly it into space to qualify it. “We have several partners, both commercial and government, that are interested in taking this next step,” Brown said SpaceNews.

He said Lockheed Martin decided to develop and release the docking interface standard to fill a need in the industry.

Many satellites operating today have technology that is 20 or 30 years old and there is no way to update them in orbit, he said. One answer to this problem is to switch to cheaper, smaller satellites that are more readily available and launched more frequently. But that solution doesn’t work for everyone, Brown said.

Some missions require large satellites that cost hundreds of millions of dollars, “and we have yet to solve this technology refresh, these satellites are not disposable,” he said.

The vision that led to the MAP standard is that it could help create an aftermarket space industry that doesn’t exist today because satellites can’t be serviced like airplanes, he said. In aerospace and defense, the aftermarket has created tremendous opportunities for an entire ecosystem of companies.

“Space has suffered from not having a truly viable aftermarket. And so, by introducing the idea of ​​satellite expansion and enhancement, we can also bring in the maintenance, repair and overhaul ecosystem that the aerospace space has enjoyed for years and that has introduced many companies to aerospace and defense.”

A space aftermarket “could be beneficial for Lockheed Martin, but also for a variety of new companies that may not be able to build the next generation of GPS, but may be able to fly and fly sensors.” , which can extend a GPS vehicle. ”

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