The 2,413th Meeting of the Society

October 4, 2019 at 8:00 PM

Powell Auditorium at the Cosmos Club

Immortal Spacecraft

The Rise of In-Space Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing

Benjamin Reed

Deputy Director, Satellite Servicing Projects Division
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

About the Lecture

Space is a lonely place. The vast majority of the 8,500 satellites launched since the dawn of time launch alone, operate alone, and die alone. This means that when we launch a spacecraft or satellite, it’s on its own, regardless of whether it ever needs assistance or not. Lifespans are limited by consumables, imperfect human design/workmanship and the exceedingly harsh natural space environment. Technically feasible refueling or repair and upgrade of on-orbit craft has remained elusive, until now. Investments throughout this decade have made the once seemingly impossible, possible. The combined prowess of On-Orbit Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing (OSAM) turns the concept of an immortal spaceship that can be continually refueled, repaired, and upgraded from science fiction to science reality.

The basic formula for sustainable space exploration is: consumable replenishment and component repair (servicing), construction of large structures (assembly), and creation of components from feedstock or in-situ resources (manufacturing) to break the dependence on earth supply chain logistics. Development of flight-proven OSAM capabilities is continuously evolving, and today the pace of development is accelerating.

Servicing can help spacecraft live longer and journey farther, enabling more science and human exploration of our solar system and beyond. In-space assembly can enable the construction of large-scale telescopes and other complex structures without volume limits imposed by rockets. This can help us peer deeper into space than ever before and aid in the search for life outside of Earth. In-space manufacturing contributes to the ability to adapt to the unforeseen and utilize in-situ resources. Together, servicing, assembly, and manufacturing promise flexible, resilient, and cost-effective space operations—chief among them, sustainable exploration.

About the Speaker

Mr. Reed currently serves as the deputy director of the Satellite Servicing Projects Division (SSPD) at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. In this position, he is responsible for the formulation, development, and execution of a portfolio of technologies cultivated to provide satellite servicing capabilities in support of Agency missions and national objectives. His responsibilities include liaising with NASA mission directorates, other Government agencies, aerospace manufacturers, satellite fleet owners and operators, and insurance agencies on all matters related to satellite servicing.

Recently, Mr. Reed served as Director of Civil Space Policy on the National Space Council (NSpC) staff, reporting to the Executive Secretary. In this role he worked to review U.S. Government space policy including long-term goals, develop a strategy for national space activities, implement the President’s national space policy objectives, and coordinate and foster cooperation between the civil, national security, and commercial space sectors.

In conjunction with his duties as deputy director of SSPD, Mr. Reed served as the Deputy Chair of the Active Debris Removal Study for the NASA Office of the Chief Technologist and has represented the Agency at international forums regarding this topic. He was a guiding member of the congressionally mandated 2010 NASA On-Orbit Satellite Servicing Study. Mr. Reed also served as a member of the joint NASA/DARPA Manned GEO Servicing Study, and was a part of the Robotics, Tele-Robotics, and Autonomous Systems team for the NASA Space Technology Roadmap.

An expert in space environmental effects on materials, Mr. Reed was the Chief Materials Engineer for the Hubble Space Telescope Project, prior to assuming his current role. Prior to joining NASA, he held positions with the American Dental Association, Unisys Corporation and Swales Aerospace. Mr. Reed received a B.S. in chemistry from the Catholic University of America.