In all geologic time, the responsibilities are on our generation ... including you ...

On-Orbit Satellite Refueling, Rescue, Repair, Scrapping, Servicing

[This is an old page being updated. Most of the updates are at the bottom.]

Any entity engaging in space development should add this extremely valuable service to their portfolio: emergency services for satellites already in space.

Right now, if a satellite fails in space, there is no repairman there to fix it. Satellite failures are not uncommon, the loss of revenues from satellites can be very high, and insurance premiums are extremely high compared to other sectors of the economy. A big chunk of the cost of a satellite system is in the insurance, as the insurance companies pay heavily for every failure. Failures have also caused companies to lose their competitive edge due to delays in delivering service in this rapidly changing and intensely competitive business.

Repair missions, both robotic and manned, will become more feasible with the introduction of one or more reusable orbit-to-orbit transfer vehicles and abundant and affordable fuel propellants from asteroidal material.

There are quite a few recently launched satellites drifting around worthlessly in bad orbits because an upper rocket stage failed during initial launch and deployment. There are also a number of satellites which failed in orbit after they operated for awhile and customers came to rely upon them.

The problem was well articulated by journalist Martyn Williams of Newsbytes in January, 1997):

"With the increasing use of satellites for everything from telephones to internet and direct-to-home broadcasting, the failures are not only expected to become more common, but also affect far more people.

"The big problem that satellite makers face is the lack of a margin of error of any type. The machines must function perfectly because, once in space, [there's noone there to fix it]

"In space, the dangers are plentiful, including space junk and solar storms.

"If such a failure was to hit a satellite carrying one of the increasingly popular direct-to-home digital TV services, the job of moving the channels, retuning receivers and repointing dishes on millions of homes would be a much bigger job."

By the time a replacement is launched, one's competitiveness in the industry is diminished.


There are numerous examples of launch failures, e.g., an upper stage failing which leaves the satellite in a worthless orbit. These would be the easiest "repair" missions. The value? Consider that AT&T Skynet sued Lockheed Martin Corp. for $250 million over failure of an upper stage (though I don't know the dollar amount or terms of the eventual settlement).

Satellites sometimes fail after successful launch and deployment, e.g., solar panels don't deploy or something comes loose and needs to be reconnected. For example, the Canadian satellite Anik-E1 went dead during launch. The same day, its sister satellite, Anik-E2, already operating in geosynchronous orbit, went out of control when its momentum-wheel control system went out of control, causing the satellite to spin around endlessly. The Anik-E1 replacement experienced a simple electrical disconnection of one of its solar panels, and is now operating on half power so that it can broadcast fewer channels. These would all be relatively simple repairs in space, especially if the satellites are designed for potential repair in a modular way.

Sometimes, both launch and on-site problems dog a company to death. For example, the Geostar satellite system experienced both a launch failure and an in-place satellite failure, and after failure of these two satellites the business was left in a shambles, and shortly thereafter declared a failure.

In mid-1997, Japan's space agency lost a satellite called "Midori" on which it had spent $759 million. It carried $229 million worth of NASA instruments (though it's not clear from our sources if that's included in the $759 million). The mission was supposed to be the key to an international research project on global climate changes. It also measured ozone levels. It went into orbit last August but the solar power panel failed, leaving the satellite without power. The fix would probably be quite simple if there were a repairman in space.

On May 19, 1998, about 90% of the 45 million pagers in the United States failed suddenly when one satellite failed, the PanAmSat Galaxy 4. Some television, radio and retail store networks also lost service, totaling considerable losses. The cause was a computer failure which caused the satellite to spin in an incorrect orientation. Fortunately, there was a backup satellite with sufficient capacity and it was quickly decided to abandon the satellite and switch the paging service to the backup satellite (whereas at least some TV and radio services made arrangements with other satellites). That meant having all local paging companies reorient their central antennas (thousands of antennas per hour, it was reported) to point to the spare satellite. After a few days, nearly everyone was back in service, fortunately, as it was the business lifelines of many people (e.g., road technicians, doctors). The failed satellite was idled and another satellite eventually moved to its position.

Recall the problems with the first two satellites launched by Orbcomm in 1995, which were supposed to be the first of a 36-satellite network to offer worldwide data and paging services but failed in orbit, causing serious problems with the sponsor's finances.

Insurance companies would probably give discounts to companies contracting with a maintenance operation, and the insurance companies may even invest to help finance establishing such a capability. If insurance companies would reduce premiums enough for customers who also pay for a satellite servicing company contract, this might justify buying such a service contract which could help support the on-orbit satellite servicing industry.

The first customers may be companies which operate many satellites in geosynchronous orbit.

One capability often discussed is a propulsion spacecraft which could attach itself to a variety of satellites for the purpose of extending its life after it runs out of fuel, or moving the satellite to a new orbit, or rescue if its propulsion system fails to deliver it to the desired location. It does not need to refuel the existing tank, but can just serve as an add-on.

As of 2013, ViviSat is developing a Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV) which would extend the life of old satellites as well as move them to a new orbit such as if they are sold to a less developed country. ViviSat is a joint venture of ATK and U.S. Space LLC.

MDA Corp., in Canada, is developing a Space Infrastructure Servicing vehicle.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has a Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office which has mounted at the International Space Station an experimental module called the Robotic Refueling Mission, whereby Phase 1 has been operating up to the time of this writing in early 2013.

DARPA has the Phoenix Program, which is far more ambitious, seeking to assemble big satellites in orbit, as well as scrap old satellites. > Products and Services > Satellite Refuel, Repair, Service

Please provide quick feedback on this page. It is encouraging to just know people read anything on this site and care enough to give some quick feedback.

Which one are you?:

How many stars would you give this page?
1 = very bad
2 = less than expected but okay
3 = average or no opinion
4 = good
5 = excellent

What is your age range?
Under 20
over 60

If you choose to submit feedback, then I wish to thank you in advance. After you click on Submit, the page will jump to the top.

Reasons to do something yourself:

  • It will help save life on our special planet -- be part of the solution in your generation.
  • It will create and secure a better future for your children and grandchildren.
  • It could be an interesting, cool, and a fun adventure for your life!

You can join us and volunteer to help out,

... or ...

If you're short on time, you can just donate by seeing our donate page, or contact Mark Prado via his personal website at

If you really much prefer to send by cryptocurrency, then you can donate into a wallet of any of our cryptocoins, though this is our least preferable way to receive donations ..., so please donate this way only if it's really much more convenient or feasible for you. The wallets are included in my cryptocoin critiques opinion page.

... or ...

Suggest this website to other people and organizations.


PERMANENT needs a PHP / MySQL (actually, MariaDB) programmer. Are you a PHP / MySQL programmer interested in getting into space development as a career, or already working in space development? Or do you know somebody else who might be interested?

This is a volunteer, unpaid role at this point in time. A limited paid role would be considered on a tight budget, such as for at least bug fixing with some minor improvements, and/or a security review of our code before it goes online publicly. If you or one of your friends or associates may be interested, please send an email to spaceprogrammer at ... of course this domain.

To get updates on PERMANENT (occasional, not frequent), get on our mailing list.

For general or specific e-mail regarding PERMANENT, please use our Feedback page.

Leave information about yourself in our people, companies, and organizations database.

If you are interested in hiring our expertise, anywhere in the world, please contact us.
We have people in the USA and Thailand, and can travel or consult by internet.
You can call anytime, 24/7, at +66-8-1135-7977

Text by Mark Prado, Copyright © 1983-2024, All Rights Reserved.
Many website artistic design elements by Sam Fraser, Copyright © 1999-2024, All Rights Reserved.

Except where specifically stated otherwise,
Copyright © 1983-2024 by Mark Evan Prado, All Rights Reserved


P rojects to E mploy R esources of the M oon and A steroids N ear E arth in the N ear T erm

P rojects to E mploy R esources of the M oon
and A steroids N ear E arth
in the N ear T erm

This website has a lot of text content, so here are some suggestions on how to navigate and also recognize pages you're seen already vs. still unseen pages in the SiteMap.

There are 2 ways to browse this website:

  • A menu floats on the top left (unless you have JavaScript disabled, in which case you must use our SiteMap).


  • The SiteMap page.

The pulldown menu and the SiteMap are the same tree of pages and links. The pulldown menu offers + and - for expand and collapse sections/subsections/sub-subsections... of the tree, sometimes multiple levels, whereas the SiteMap has everything expanded with no + or - expand and collapse options so the SiteMap is much longer, compared to the pulldown menu if not fully expanded. You may just choose which of the two formats you prefer at a particular time.

The SiteMap colors links red which you have already visited, vs. normal blue for still unseen. It is convenient to browse the SiteMap in one tab or window, and opening pages in other tabs/windows (Ctrl-click or right-click), such as browsing the whole SiteMap to skip pages you've already seen and to choose to open pages you haven't read yet.

The pulldown menu doesn't change the color of seen pages, unfortunately, unlike the SiteMap. However, using the pulldown menu, you can quickly browse the list of sections and other pages without leaving the page you're on. The SiteMap is a separate page of its own.