From the Desk of the Executive Director
As we come towards the end of an eventful 2021, it’s worth reflecting on how much things have changed — and also not changed — over the past year. On the positive side, many parts of the world have turned the corner on dealing with the pandemic, and things we used to take for granted, such as in-person conferences and international travel, are slowly coming back. But that progress is not universal, and the world is also facing new challenges with disruptions to global supply chains and unmet consumer demand.

Thankfully, it appears that the satellite servicing world has weathered those challenges mostly unscathed and has also managed to notch some impressive achievements over the last year. We’ve seen the first two commercial satellite servicing missions successfully begin their life extension missions, as well as the first ever capture of another space object with a magnetic docking plate. From the CONFERS perspective, we have also had a good year in adding new members, continuing work on developing best practices and standards for satellite servicing, and making progress on our transition from a DARPA-funded initiative to an independent, privately held and funded organization.

This quarter’s newsletter provides updates on the progress of that transition, as well as updates on our activities so far this year. Leading off this issue is a note from the co-chairs of our Executive Committee to discuss the new member-driven CONFERS Vision and Mission that was recently adopted under their leadership. We also have summaries of what took place at our third workshop of 2021, and a recap of our very successful fourth annual Global Satellite Servicing Forum held back in October. We then finish up with the new publications and members of our Executive Committee and highlights of some of the amazing activities our members have accomplished over the last few months. 

Sincerely,
Dr. Brian Weeden
Executive Director, CONFERS
Director of Program Planning, Secure World Foundation
ExCom Chair Note
Chris Blackerby, CONFERS ExCom Chairman
We are at the start of the last year of CONFERS as we know it.
 
Since its inception in 2017, the activities of CONFERS have been supported primarily with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the group that leads investments in breakthrough technologies for the US Department of Defense. Founded with the intention to build a community of companies interested in developing standards for satellite servicing, we have made incredible strides in a short time.

CONFERS was initially a US-centric group with six members; it has since grown globally to include over 50 members from countries around the world. Our influence has grown at pace with our membership — we have submitted technical proposals to standards agencies, held several successful satellite servicing conferences, and worked with government officials around the world to drive best practices for servicing operations.

We are continuing to change the mindset around satellite servicing within and outside of the space community. This is not just a niche corner of the space sector anymore; it is a rapidly growing ecosystem that is on the cusp of proving a market that will transform the space economy. We were able to get to this point thanks to the support of DARPA and the passion of our members.

But we knew that this day of transformation was coming.

DARPA always only intended to fund CONFERS through five years of operations. After that, it was expected that the group would be self-sufficient, funding itself primarily through member dues and conference attendance. We are now in the last year of DARPA funding, and we’ll be spending the next 10 months preparing for life as a fully functioning industry group for the satellite servicing sector.

There is a lot of work to do, and our Executive Committee is up for the task. But we also need your help! It is only with the support of the full membership that we will be able to truly mature CONFERS and develop this new market.

All industries, particularly nascent ones, have always benefited from an industry group that can give member companies a larger voice as a group than any of us would have individually. CONFERS is your global satellite servicing industry group and we are ready for this next phase. 
CONFERS Workshop 13 Summary
Stephen A. Daire, CONFERS Communications Working Group Co-Chair
 The 13th CONFERS workshop on August 23, 2021, was a hybrid event allowing for participants to meet virtually and adjacent to the 37th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado. New CONFERS members announced during the workshop included High Earth Orbit Robotics, Kall Morris Inc., Kurs Orbital, Inc., Obruta Space Solutions Corporation, and Turion Space Corporation. Several of the topics discussed during the workshop included standards updates, interfacing database reviews, Global Satellite Servicing Forum planning, Communications Working Group updates, and principles and practices breakout sessions. Workshop discussions related to OSAM (orbital servicing assembly and manufacturing) and RPO (rendezvous and proximity operations) provided content to be formed into materials for the CONFERS annual deliverables to DARPA. The workshop received the Communication Working Group report on social media marketing plan and preparations for GSSF 2021. The workshop participants also provided valuable insight and revisions to the CONFERS principles and practices. Discussions will continue on maintaining hybrid workshops for future sessions. We look forward to seeing you there! 
CONFERS Holds Fourth Annual
Global Satellite Servicing Forum
Ian Christensen, CONFERS Stakeholder Engagement Coordinator
The 2021 Global Satellite Servicing Forum (GSSF), with the theme of Building the Infrastructure for a Thriving Space Ecosystem, was held on September 29 and 30, 2021, as the fourth annual edition of our flagship event. The GSSF is the annual conference CONFERS organizes to highlight activities and milestones in the global on-orbit servicing ecosystem. The 2021 GSSF took place in an entirely virtual format with a half-day of content and programming on both September 29 and 30, and this year’s event was our best-attended GSSF ever, with almost 300 registrants. The agenda for the 2021 GSSF is available here. Recordings for all 2021 GSSF sessions have now been made available online.  Information on all prior GSSF events is available on the CONFERS website.

The 2021 GSSF kicked off with a panel to highlight the in-space achievements of the on-orbit servicing community this past year and look to near-term future milestones, including mission achievements and plans by CONFERS member companies Astroscale, SpaceLogistics, GITAI, and Starfish Space. Keynote speeches during the conference from NASA and the European Space Agency emphasized both the increasing expectation that these national space agencies have for the availability of satellite servicing related capabilities and technologies, as well as the need for commonality and standards as these capabilities are fielded. These perspectives were complemented by shorter highlight and spotlight talks in which both industry and government presented synopses of upcoming capabilities and programs. On the second day of the conference a panel session focused on challenges and actions that must be addressed in order for the satellite servicing sector to become a vibrant part of the space economy. In keeping with the future looking theme of the event, the GSSF closed with a discussion session in which several CONFERS member companies responded to visions for the role of servicing in several key areas of future in-space infrastructure as described by experts from across the space community.

Taking advantage of the online format of the event, the 2021 GSSF included several concurrent breakout sessions that provided in-depth discussion of topics of interest to CONFERS membership and the satellite servicing community. These sessions discussed a range of topics: the need for evolution in space policy and regulation to enable satellite servicing; an update on efforts underway to field technical interfaces to enable servicing activities; and a discussion of the role of servicing capabilities in national security space activities.

The 2021 GSSF was supported by Titanium level sponsors Astroscale and SpaceLogistics; Gold level sponsor Space Able; keynote sponsors Space Infrastructure Foundation and Voyager Space Holdings; as well additional sponsors Aerospace Corporation, Lockheed Martin, OrbitFab, and MDA. SpaceNews was the media sponsor for the event, and DARPA and Germany’s DLR provided additional support. 
Member Highlights
Between Oct. 13-16, CONFERS Contributing Member GITAI conducted a successful tech demonstration of its S1 autonomous space robot inside the ISS Nanoracks Bishop Airlock. The robot performed autonomous assembly, switch and cable manipulation, as well as teleoperation tasks conducted from mission control in Houston, TX. GITAI’s Founder & CEO, Mr. Sho Nakanose said, “With the success of this technical demonstration, GITAI will be able to provide a significantly cheaper and safer means of conducting various tasks in space, which will bring about a true dawn of the space commercialization age.
On Oct. 4, CONFERS Contributing Member Orbit Fab, announced the release of the RAFTI™ Open License, offering a standard refueling interface design for all satellites in LEO, GEO, and cislunar space. Dozens of companies are currently in discussions with Orbit Fab including Lockheed Martin, Altius Space Machines, Astroscale U.S., and Orbion Space Technology. CEO Daniel Faber says, "Orbit Fab is working with industry leaders to provide RAFTI as a common interface for refueling satellites in space. No one wants vendor-lock. We just want to sell fuel. Collaboration is the key to enabling a bustling in-space economy."
On Nov. 16, CONFERS Sustaining Member Astroscale announced its new universal docking plate, which aligns with CONFERS standards and is designed to offer satellite operators a number of servicing options for their spacecraft. Said Nobu Okada, Astroscale Founder & CEO, “We urge the space community to demonstrate real commitment to protect the space environment by preparing satellites with a Docking Plate for future removal.” Astroscale also announced its ELSA-d mission’s first successful demonstration of magnetic capture in orbit on August 25.

If you’re interested in submitting a member highlight for a future issue of the CONFERS newsletter, please contact CONFERS Communications Working Group Chairs Stephen Daire, stephen@proteangistsolutions.business, and Dave Hebert, d.hebert@astroscale-us.com