Space Drones - UK's Effective Space To Launch Rocket Tugs
The UK-based company Effective Space will be launching small Space Drone ships to push aging satellites into better orbits. Science fiction writers of long ago thought about this, and called them "rocket tugs", by analogy to ocean-going tugboats.
(Effective Space satellite servicing "drones" in 2020)
The "Space Drone" (yellow) would dock with the ageing telecommunications satellite (orange).
Effective Space already has a deal to send the washing-machine-sized systems to go latch on to two satellites that are running out of fuel and take over their station keeping duties.
The low-cost drones are designed to be compact (1m x 1m x 1.25m; 400kg) and one way to achieve this is to use electric propulsion.
This fits in a very small volume and provides thrust by ionising and then ejecting a gas. It is an efficient technology but works best over longer timescales.
Golden Age (of science fiction) great Nat Schachner wrote about the space tug idea in his 1937 story Crystalized Thought:
WHEN the great globe was completed, and stocked with all its multitudinous machines, twenty rocket tugs towed it from its Earth hangar out into space...
(Read more about the rocket tug)
I'd add that fans of more recent authors might recall the pushpots from Murray Leinster's novel Space Tug (1953).
Via Effective Space and BBC.
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