Second Quarter 2020  


Dr. Brian Weeden,
Executive Director
From the Desk of the Executive Director
It is becoming trite to say that the world has changed but it seems in 2020 that phrase achieves new meaning every month. As the world struggles through the COVID-19 pandemic it is hard to see how things will ever be the same again. Yet despite the difficulties and massive changes, there are also some activities that must find a way to go on because they are critical to securing our future. The work we do within CONFERS to develop practices and standards to enable future commercial satellite servicing industry falls into that category.
Thankfully, we've managed to alter our plans for our 2020 activities while still keeping to our core mission. Instead of holding our usual in-person workshops, we've switched to virtual meetings and in the process have had to rethink how to do collaboration without that face-to-face interaction. We've also had to postpone or cancel much of the travel we expected to do for outreach and building relationships with other stakeholders, and instead turn to virtual means as well. Our members are also developing ways to carry out ground-breaking space operations while also managing the risk from COVID-19.
This newsletter provides more details about how we've managed this shift across all these areas. It features an article from CONFERS member SpaceLogistics on the overwhelming success of the first commercial satellite servicing mission. It also includes summaries of two virtual events: one that CONFERS co-organized with the European Union's Strategic Research Cluster Programme to strengthen our collaboration on standards and another with just our members to continue working on new products and publications. Finally, it includes an update on the status of the first international standard on satellite servicing, based on a CONFERS draft, that is making its way through the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
We fully expect that there will be more challenges ahead throughout the rest of this year, but as we all adjust to the new normal it is heartening to see the resilience displayed by our community as we all work through this together. 

Dr. Brian Weeden
Executive Director, CONFERS
Director of Program Planning, Secure World Foundation
Member Highlight: SpaceLogistics Conducts Successful First Commercial Servicing Mission and Preps for Future with RSGS
By: Joe Anderson, Vice President of Operations and Business Development

On February 25, 2020, SpaceLogistics, Northrop Grumman and Intelsat made history together by performing the first commercial docking between two satellites, the Mission Extension Vehicle 1 (MEV-1) and Intelsat 901 (IS-901) in a near Geostationary orbit. This event marked the true beginning of a new market of services in space. Following the docking, MEV-1 relocated the combined stack to its new operational role at 27.5°E longitude and reduced inclination by 1.6 degrees. The IS-901 satellite then began communication services from this location on April 2. MEV-1 remains attached to IS-901, providing both orbit and attitude control for the combined vehicle stack. Intelsat has contracted five years of life extension services, after which MEV-1 will relocate the IS-901 to the GEO graveyard orbit where it will be released. MEV-1 will then proceed on to its next service while IS-901 will be decommissioned.
While SpaceLogistics is busy preparing its second MEV, MEV-2, for launch and service of another Intelsat satellite, IS-1002, we are also well underway with the development of our next generation servicing and life extension products. These consist of the Mission Robotic Vehicle (MRV) and Mission Extension Pods (MEP). The MRV is being developed in partnership with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) under the Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program. This robotic vehicle will be able to conduct detailed robotic inspections, perform basic repairs, relocate client vehicles, and install augmentation devices like the MEP. The MEP is a propulsion augmentation device that can provide 6 years of orbit control life extension to a typical 2000kg client vehicle.
With persistent robotic servicing capability in GEO orbit starting in 2024, now is the time to begin planning satellite servicing into your next generation of spacecraft if you want to stay competitive. This might include installing rendezvous and proximity operations targets, refueling valves and data/power ports to easily repair failing bus equipment or host new payloads in-orbit.
The European Operations Framework - Lifting Up Europe in the Global OOS Arena
By: Daniel Jones, Technology Cluster Manager, UK Space Agency

In March 2020, we held the first joint virtual workshop between CONFERS and the EOF (European Operations Framework). The meeting was originally to be held in-person in Brussels, Belgium, but plans were waylaid by Covid-19-related restrictions. Nonetheless, the virtual event was a great success and represents the first of what we hope will be many joint endeavours that will bring together the various stakeholders that are working to develop innovative, effective standards, methods, and approaches that will underpin the next generation of on-orbit operations missions.
Europe already boasts a proud heritage in the field of robotics and space operations. Through the Strategic Research Cluster (SRC) programme, funded by the European Commission's Horizon 2020, European actors are currently making great strides in developing technologies and approaches that will define the next generation of orbital space missions. Current projects are developing servicing, assembly, and reconfiguration of satellites with increased modularity.
For these missions to be effective and align with global developments, the national agencies - as well as the European Space Agency (ESA) - have set up the EOF programme, which will act as a European counterpart to the CONFERS activities being coordinated from the USA. We have struck up a great working relationship with CONFERS and we are hopeful that this will enable both parties to effectively collaborate to mutual advantage. The actors on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond will need to trade together if the OOS sector is to be a success, so we are delighted that we have established this relationship.
The March teleconference workshop kicked off with a recap from the CONFERS Executive Director, Dr. Brian Weeden, and an introduction to the EOF by Daniel Nölke of the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The workshop then consisted of presentations of the respective CONFERS and EOF positions and thinking in the areas of standards and definitions; technologies and operations; law and insurance; and commerce. Despite the restrictions in place, there were enthusiastic discussions and new connections made.
The next step for the EOF is to release the first draft of our guidelines, which will be circulated to CONFERS members for feedback and ongoing collaboration over the summer of 2020. Despite the uncertainties surrounding the world at the present time, we remain hopeful that we can continue to work together in the months and years ahead.
CONFERS Workshop 9 Summary
By:  Ian Christensen, CONFERS Stakeholder Engagement Coordinator

In May, CONFERS held its ninth workshop over two virtual sessions to continue working on technical safety standards and recommended practices for commercial satellite servicing. The workshop agenda covered updates on CONFERS publications and work products being developed through CONFERS's two primary membership working groups: the CONFERS Technical Working Group (CTWG) and the CONFERS Policy Working Group (CPWG); as well as several guest presentations; discussion of CONFERS outreach plans; and working sessions on CONFERS publications and products.
The workshop featured a presentation from senior NASA leadership on NASA's architecture for future human spaceflight in low Earth orbit, cislunar space, and beyond, and the potential role for satellite servicing in that architecture. This presentation afforded CONFERS members an opportunity to discuss the role of servicing in space exploration architecture. The workshop also included a presentation from CONFERS member SpaceLogistics, highlighting the on-orbit success of the Mission Extension Vehicle-1 mission, and its relationship to CONFERS' Guiding Principles and Practices. Other guest speakers included an expert spectrum regulatory lawyer and a researcher focused on OOS and RPO related lexicon; each in specific breakout groups on those subjects.
The majority of the time during the workshop was spent in working sessions that allowed workshop participants and CONFERS members to join moderated breakout groups focused on specific working topics. On the first day of the workshop breakout groups covered ongoing work under the CPWG and CTWG, giving Members exposure to and involvement in the activities of these Groups, which continue through monthly meetings. The CTWG session focused on work to further define risk and mitigation principles related to the CONFERS Mission Phase Diagram; while the CPWG session focused on a review of CONFERS policy whitepapers that are under development. The second day of the workshop included two separate breakout sessions that discussed further work on the CONFERS Lexicon for Satellite Servicing and an initial discussion of spectrum management and allocation considerations for commercial RPO and OOS, respectively. The CPWG, CTWG, and a newly established CONFERS Lexicon Working Group will continue to work on these topics.
CONFERS members can access many of the presentations and documents from the workshop via the members-only features of the CONFERS website. CONFERS will continue our efforts in the coming months. Our next workshop is planned as a virtual event in July 2020 and the CONFERS Working Groups will continue to work via telecon between workshops. During the membership workshop and meetings planned for October 2020, we plan to finalize updates to our existing publications in time for release at the 2020 Global Satellite Servicing Forum (GSSF).
Update on ISO Draft Standard on Commercial Satellite Servicing
By:  Fred Slane, Executive Director, Space Infrastructure Foundation

One of the main missions of CONFERS is to foster the development of technical standards to enhance the safety of commercial satellite servicing. Since its inception in 2017, CONFERS has been carrying out a work plan to achieve this goal. The process began by convening CONFERS members and government experts through our workshops to develop the CONFERS Guiding Principles and Recommended Design and Operating Practices. Those principles practiced were submitted as a draft standard to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in April 2019 and have since been in work in the international space systems and operations subcommittee (ISO TC20/SC14) as ISO Working Draft (WD) 24330. Several CONFERS member companies have been participating in the ISO deliberations by joining their respective country delegations. I have been serving as the ISO Project Lead for WD 24330 as part of the CONFERS Secretariat.
In May 2020, ISO TC20/SC14 working groups held a virtual meeting to bring together Subject Matter Experts from the US, UK, Japan, Germany, France, Ukraine, Russia and Brazil to continue discussions of several draft standards and new proposals. Specifically on WD 24330, the discussion included three rounds of email comments from Japan, two from France and comments from working group members at large. A focused virtual meeting on remaining WD 24330 comments and proposed resolution is scheduled for 10 June.
The response and comments from all of the delegations has been positive. Most of the comments are aimed at clarifying terms, definitions and processes. A major point of discussion is that some of the proposed principles or practices imply standard requirements at a greater level of detail. We need to agree on how to develop the future body of knowledge (as captured in standards) knowing what we need, but not yet having a best practice to address that need. An example here is the need for some type of control volume for safe operations. the CONFERS-developed Principles and Practices tell us we need such, but we are not yet at the point of being able to state a set of standard requirements for control volumes.
We are essentially in agreement that the draft is in good shape. With a successful meeting 10 June, ISO WD 24330 will be ready for movement to the next stage toward publication as a formal ISO standard.
CONFERS Members In The News

This section includes recent news articles from any CONFERS member that shared one with us. If you are a consortium member and would like to be included in the next newsletter, please send the information to CONFERS@ATI.ORG. All articles can also be found in the News section of our website.


The Consortium for Execution of Rendezvous and Servicing Operations (CONFERS) is an industry-led initiative with initial seed funding provided by DARPA that aims to leverage best practices from government and industry to research, develop, and publish non-binding, consensus-derived technical and operations standards for OOS and RPO. These standards would provide the foundation for a new commercial repertoire of robust space-based capabilities and a future in-space economy. To find out more about CONFERS, visit: