Refueling, propulsion ‘jetpacks’ near term Space Force ‘mobility’ plans | Space

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Astroscale US is building a prototype satellites for refueling other satellites on orbit under a Space Force contract worth $25.5M. (Graphic: Astroscale US)

ORLANDO — In the near term, the Space Force’s plans to implement dynamic space operations are focused on acquiring satellites that can be refueled and the means to do so, as well as propulsion units that can be strapped on to satellites that have run out of fuel, according to service officials.

“We’re taking our cues from Space Systems Command,” Brig. Gen. Kristin Panzenhagen, Space Force program executive officer for Assured Access to Space, told reporters here today. “So that’s where prioritizing on-orbit refueling is coming from as the immediate need. You know, everybody’s focused on great power competition and making sure that we as a force are prepared to meet that.”

The Assured Access to Space office is the acquisition unit not just space mobility and logistics, but also for the Space Force’s launch programs.

In addition, Panzenhagen said, to fill “the immediate demand signal,” the service is looking at acquiring “a backpack or a jetpack that could go connect up with an existing satellite to give it more propulsion, whether it’s not designed to have sufficient thrust or it’s out of propellant.”

Col. Joyce Bulson, who heads Space System Command’s new(ish) Servicing, Mobility and Logistics Office, explained that her office just stood up in September to “answer those demands from US Space Command as well as our other mission partner partners,” including Indo-Pacific and Transportation Commands.

She said that since mobility and logistics was tagged as a “core mission area” for the Space Force in 2020, there have been lots of discussions, formal requirements generated and a number of early research programs launched by various Defense Department agencies, such as the Defense Innovation Unit and Air Force Research Laboratory.

“All of these technologies and…

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