TITLE: Space Workbench (c); ISS Orbital Automated Cubesat Manufacturing, Assembly, and Deployment System Proposal
This proposal relates to a new and unique concept whereby a cubesat production facility is established on the ISS utilizing various internal modules and external platforms to produce cubesats capable of escaping the orbit of Earth into deep space. By building deep space probes at the international space, these cubesats can be produced at less cost, on demand, and depart the ISS to explore the solar system.
Production rate is currently cautiously envisioned at one satellite per twenty-four hours, but it is feasible that such a Space Workbench (c) could produce systems at one per hour, if not faster. Initially, an astronaut would unpack the inventory components, delivering them to the storage bins at the front of the assembly and conveyor belt platform, this could require traveling through several modules across the space station to deliver the components to these storage bins, however there is nothing theoretically preventing this task to be accomplished by a robotic system. Long term, multiple workstations can be deployed into Earth Orbit to provide increased production capability, one day, even being deployed to Venus, Mars, or the outer solar system. The deep space probes that would be constructed through the Space Workbench (c) will enable:
Exploration of Venus, deploying series of inflatable-blimp long term sensor platforms. Hundreds of probes could quickly and effectively explore Mars on the fraction of the budgetary expenses incurred by larger rovers.
Exploration of the Mars System, deploying a 6U lander payload with integrated heat shield, prospecting missions to Phobos and Deimos, eventually hundreds of probes could quickly and effectively explore Mars on the fraction of the budgetary expenses incurred by larger rovers, the capability of delivery by small payloads in the aggregate of critical life support systems and infrastructure for Martian settlement.
Exploration of the Moon;Lunar orbital communications and energy satellite constellations, deployed soft-robotic micro-landers to the surface, cheap delivery to the Moon, as opposed current heavy-launcher vehicle alternatives.
Exploration of Asteroids, deploying a 6U lander and return vehicle which could provide valuable pristine samples, returned to the ISS, providing fuel for new satellites at nominal costs compared to the current high-cost alternative of ground launch.
These probes could explore the outer solar system belt, deploying landers on Titan, exploring the seas of Europa, providing early warning asteroid detection grids in the remote Oort cloud creating valuable intellectual property.
This is accomplished by a proprietary web-browser interface for the customer, where components can be selected, engineering models can be upload for orbital manufacturing, cost estimates can be produced for the formulated spacecraft, and sales contracts can be executed, and payment made and received. This is unique, and a completely innovative approach to the commercial space industry. In the author’s opinion, this service will open up space like never before. Individuals can then upload the software systems and mission profiles for review and acceptance. The customer is then notified with respect to development, and any further requirements, such as a specialized component, will be calculated and integrated into future Earth launch shipping manifests.
The proprietary Space Workbench (c), is constructed in part using existing 3D printing capabilities on the ISS for various aspects of the shell and components. Cargo is then launched from Earth, via CASIS, containing the initial storage-bins and components for the workbench. An astronaut assembles the shell components of the Space Workbench, installing the motors, sensors, touchscreen interface, and establishes a working data connection with Earth. Following that, the assembly of components from the storage bins, in addition to the occasional transit of new parts from the existing ISS 3D printer systems to the Space Workbench will enable a low cost alternative to what would otherwise be untenable astronaut prices, and a lack of infrastructure to enable such a spacecraft shipyard service.
These visions are enabled by three critical technologies, the advancement of micro-processor technology enabling incredibly intelligent and capable cubesat and micro-payload systems, the advancements in cubesat ion propulsion enabling Deep Space exploration beyond Earth orbit, and the emergence of 3D printing which enables the on-orbit manufacturing and assembly required for these cubesats. These disparate technologies come together, creating a superior solution to planetary exploration, as demonstrated by Alpha Cubesat. Eventually, it is possible to imagine utilizing asteroid returned resources, processed at the ISS, as raw material for the spacecraft components, enabling purchasing of space resources by commercial asteroid mining companies for such delivery. Water ice, a central element of pristine asteroid material, once processed and distilled, would further revolutionize the on-orbit construction paradigm, as such could be used for advanced propulsion systems. Currently, shipping water to orbit is extremely expensive.
The increased demand for water at the ISS would also lower the station upkeep expenses, by providing astronauts with water and other necessary resources at a greatly reduced cost, enabling more launch storage capacity to be utilized for additional components. The unique aspect of this proposal is its Space Workbench approach to the assembly process, and launch protocols. The system can continual grow, with ever more modular storage-bins, and those components can continue to advance over time as the technology improves leading to premiums for newer components and greater savings on older component models still left in stock. Furthermore, the ease by which an individual can select a mission profile, and upload custom mission designs, permits easy operations. Using this interface, a amateur space enthusiast, or experienced research scientist, can easily create a mission architecture profile, following updates directly to their email, and depending on the cubesat configuration, can interact directly with the system using telepresence.
Though the ship production can be purchased, the user will still be required to contract for continuing data and network services. Ideally the increased bandwidth demand will lead to local space telecommunications networks in addition to the growing commercial interplanetary networks to provide contracted services to other deep space cubesat systems that would otherwise be unable to communicate with Earth directly, this greatly reduces the cost of such attendant expenses, which further enables the mass-production and sales of these systems by the workbench.
Space Workbench LLC (c) Non-Confidential Executive Summary. All Rights Reserved. (c) 2015