Geostationary (GEO) satellite
Space Systems/Loral (SSL)
Palo Alto, CA

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has chosen Space Systems/Loral (SSL) to conduct first-phase design studies for a spacecraft that can travel to an asteroid, remove a boulder, and redirect it into a lunar orbit to prepare it for a visit by astronauts in the 2020s.

Once the boulder is secured, the Capture and Restraint System legs will provide a mechanical push off that will separate the boulder from the surface and provide an initial ascent without the use of thrusters to limit the amount of debris created. (NASA)
In keeping with NASA’s strategy to leverage commercially available capabilities, SSL’s spacecraft design for the Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission (ARRM) will be based on its commercial geostationary (GEO) satellite.

SSL is one of four companies that received contracts from JPL for design studies for the spacecraft. Its experience with solar electric propulsion(SEP) includes 18 spacecraft on orbit today, the first of which launched in 2004. The acquisition strategy for the ARRM spacecraft will leverage commercially available U.S. industry capabilities to reduce costs and cost risk. The

The solar electric propulsion system will propel the first mission to redirect an asteroid. (NASA)
strategy includes procurement of the ARRM spacecraft bus through two phases. The first phase is design work accomplished through studies by U.S. industry working in cooperation with the mission’s project office at JPL to support mission formulation. The second phase, to be awarded via a second competition, will include development and implementation of the flight spacecraft bus by one of the study participants.

ARRM is being planned to perform a number of demonstrations including the use of a 20-fold improvement in deep space SEP to move and maneuver large payloads; retrieve a boulder up to 20 tons in mass from an asteroid and redirect it to a crew-accessible orbit around the Moon; and be a part of integrated crewed and robotic vehicle operations in deep space.

ARRM is part of NASA’s plan for using cislunar space, the region between Earth and the Moon’s orbit, as a proving ground for future human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit, in support of the agency’s journey to Mars.

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