Hurdles still to overcome for in-orbit servicing industry

The space industry is full of acronyms, but TRL or ‘technology readiness level’ is one that we hear often for many new and emerging markets. As a measure of the availability and status of the technology required for an operation, it gives an indication of how close to ‘lift-off’ is the said technology.

In-orbit services have been constrained to low TRL due to lack of (enough) in-orbit demonstrations and thus a lack of confidence amongst customers. With the recent successful docking of Northrop Grumman’s MEV-1 with Intelsat-901, the technology readiness level for life extension has moved up to TRL 8 – 9 by validating a successful system level demonstration. As such, technology is no longer a hurdle for life extension from becoming a true space service.

However, technology is just a small – albeit significant – part of the puzzle, and the long-term success of the in-orbit servicing business model will rely heavily on the market interest and readiness.

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