Science and Exploration

National In-Space Servicing, Assembly, And Manufacturing Implementation Plan

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
December 18, 2022
Filed under , , ,
National In-Space Servicing, Assembly, And Manufacturing Implementation Plan
National In-Space Servicing, Assembly, And Manufacturing Implementation Plan

Product of the In-space Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing Interagency Working
Group of the National Science and Technology Council

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Executive Summary

The development of In-Space Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing (ISAM) capabilities represents the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to scientific and technological innovation, economic growth, commercial development, a diverse U.S. skilled workforce, and international collaboration in space. These ISAM capabilities are on the brink of opening new possibilities for U.S. commercial industry and American workers to build, repair, and transport objects in space. With the new opportunities ISAM affords, global space operators will have access to technologies that can increase satellite lifetimes; move, tug, or deorbit satellites to avoid debris or to perform end-of-life maneuvers; inspect satellites for damage; maintain, refuel, and upgrade existing satellites; and build and operate larger, more complex systems in space that do not need to be designed to withstand the severe launch environment.

The ISAM Implementation Plan implements the strategic vision established in the April 2022 ISAM National Strategy. Both policy documents were developed by the National Science and Technology Council’s Interagency Working Group on In-Space Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing. The Implementation Plan is organized around the six ISAM National Strategy goals:

  • Advancing ISAM research and development;
  • Prioritizing the expansion of scalable infrastructure;
  • Accelerating the emerging ISAM commercial industry;
  • Promoting international collaboration and cooperation to achieve ISAM goals;
  • Prioritizing environmental sustainability as we move forward with ISAM capabilities; and
  • Inspiring a diverse workforce as a potential outcome of ISAM innovation.

Achieving the strategic goals requires U.S. leadership and successful engagement and coordination with industry, non-profit organizations, academia, and the international community. Each of the National ISAM strategic goals is broken down into objectives to organize 28 discrete ISAM implementation activities that Federal departments and agencies will undertake to advance the ISAM National Strategy.

Advancing ISAM R&D is the foundation of this Implementation Plan by calling for agencies to define future missions and architectures to use ISAM capabilities. It also calls for studies of ISAM capability needs and gaps to further advance ISAM technologies. The U.S. government has a clear role in helping the spacecraft and mission designers and operators develop standards to facilitate ISAM use not only through engagements with commercial partners, but through incorporating those well-developed standards into government spacecraft. Regarding test infrastructure, the Plan highlights activities to assess the gaps in the current capabilities as well as directs agencies to develop an approach for in-space propellant infrastructure.

Through a number of activities outlined in this Plan, the U.S. government aims to drive positive change for the U.S. space sector by promoting and enabling the adoption of ISAM capabilities. A number of activities call for promoting opportunities for international cooperation with partners and prioritizing environmental responsibility results in activities that motivate space operators to conduct ISAM in a safe and responsible manner. There are a set of activities put forth to inspire, prepare, and employ a diverse, future space workforce through increased educational opportunities, access to secondary and post-secondary programs, and promoting interdisciplinarity to enable ISAM capabilities. The Plan outlines activities for the United States to lead in a future of space exploration in which U.S. commercial industry and American workers are manufacturing, assembling, and repairing space systems in orbit, around the Moon, and in deep space.

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SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.