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Enhanced US Space Maneuverability Achieved Through Northrop Grumman's Refueling Technology
Northrop Grumman's GAS-T design will leverage an ESPAStar-D satellite platform to add fuel and extend the life of in-orbit assets.
Enhanced US Space Maneuverability Achieved Through Northrop Grumman's Refueling Technology
by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Feb 06, 2024

Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) has achieved a significant milestone in space technology by having its Passive Refueling Module (PRM) selected as the first preferred refueling solution interface standard for Space Systems Command (SSC) satellites. This collaboration marks a pivotal advancement in in-space refueling technologies, catering to the nation's critical national security needs for sustained maneuverability of space-based assets in dynamic space operations.

The selection of Northrop Grumman's PRM by SSC underscores the maturity and technical viability of the design, setting a precedent for future satellite designs to incorporate this interface, enabling in-space fuel receipt. The agreement includes a contract for Northrop Grumman to deploy the PRM on an operational mission, further solidifying the company's role in enhancing the United States' strategic capabilities in space.

In a joint effort, SSC and the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) have funded Northrop Grumman's commercial in-space servicing subsidiary, SpaceLogistics, to integrate and fly the PRM aboard the company's Mission Robotic Vehicle. This initiative is part of a broader strategy to develop a robust in-space refueling infrastructure, including the Geosynchronous Auxiliary Support Tanker (GAS-T) contract awarded to Northrop Grumman. This contract initiates the development of a refueling tanker and associated technologies critical for delivering fuel to space assets.

Lauren Smith, the program manager for in-space refueling at Northrop Grumman, emphasized the transformative potential of refueling technology, stating, "Refueling is the key to enhanced maneuverability, enabling our DoD customers to categorically change the way they operate U.S. assets in space." Smith's comments highlight the strategic importance of refueling capabilities in ensuring the United States maintains its competitive edge in space operations.

Rob Hauge, president of SpaceLogistics, further underscored the significance of on-orbit refueling in addressing the challenges of a congested and contested space domain. Hauge noted, "On-orbit refueling will enable spacecraft to continue maneuvering to engage threats, avoid debris and extend the life of satellites." He also pointed out SpaceLogistics' unique position as the first and only company successfully providing commercial in-space servicing missions in geosynchronous orbit (GEO), emphasizing ongoing collaborations with SSC and other government customers to refine in-space refueling capabilities.

Northrop Grumman's commitment to maintaining U.S leadership in space is evident in its rapid development of refueling technologies. The company boasts unparalleled expertise in Rendezvous and Proximity Operations (RPO) and leads the industry in on-orbit life-extension services, with over six years of experience servicing satellites in orbit. The comprehensive refueling interface system being developed by Northrop Grumman includes mechanisms for successful docking and fuel transfer, along with a refueling payload for managing the fuel transfer process. This development is the culmination of years of effort, including numerous successful design reviews and rigorous testing campaigns, reflecting Northrop Grumman's dedication to advancing the state of in-space servicing.

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