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Space Systems Command Selects Northrop Grumman For Space Refueling Standard and Tanker

By Calvin Biesecker | February 1, 2024

      Northrop Grumman’s GAS-T design will leverage an ESPAStar-D satellite platform to add fuel and extend the life of in-orbit assets. Photo: Northrop Grumman

      Northrop Grumman on Monday said its Passive Refueling Module (PRM) has been selected by Space Systems Command (SSC) as the first refueling interface standard to refuel satellites in space to prolong their lives and continue to conduct operations dynamically.

      The PRM has completed a critical design review level of maturity and is now preparing for a test campaign to become qualified, the company said. SSC first awarded Northrop Grumman work on the PRM in 2021.

      Northrop Grumman said its refueling interface system will be able to dock and transfer fuel.

      The PRM will be integrated on Northrop Grumman’s Mission Robotic Vehicle (MRV), which the company said will make it the first commercial space vehicle designed to be refuelable. The integration effort will be done by Northrop Grumman’s SpaceLogistics subsidiary and is being funded by SSC and the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit.

      The MRV is being developed as an on-orbit servicing vehicle capable of performing operations such as satellite inspection, relocation, repair, docking, refueling, and more.

      The company also said that in 2023 SSC awarded the company the Geosynchronous Auxiliary Support Tanker (GAS-T) contract to develop an in-space tanker and related technologies to deliver fuel. The company said it cannot provide exact timelines for GAS-T but is preparing the tanker for a refueling demonstration or operational mission based on SSC’s needs.

      The GAS-T will leverage Northrop Grumman’s ESPAStar-D satellite platform.

      “In an increasingly contested and congested space domain, on-orbit refueling will enable spacecraft to continue maneuvering to engage threats, avoid debris, and extend the life of satellites,” Rob Hauge, president of SpaceLogistics, said in a statement. “As the first and only company successfully providing commercial in-space servicing missions in GEO, we continue to collaborate with SSC and other government customers to mature in-space refueling capabilities.”

      This story was first published by Defense Daily