Northrop Grumman Corporation’s Passive Refueling Module (PRM) has been chosen as the inaugural preferred solution interface standard for satellites under the Space Systems Command (SSC).
This aims to be a pivotal move in advancing in-space refueling technologies, with a specific focus on addressing the critical national security requirement for sustained maneuverability in dynamic space operations.
Selection and details
The PRM’s selection stems from its proven design maturity and technical viability, positioning it as a frontrunner for future satellites’ refueling interfaces.
A collaborative effort between Northrop Grumman and SSC is already underway, with plans to integrate the PRM into an operational mission in the near future. SSC, in conjunction with the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), has pooled resources to support Northrop Grumman’s commercial subsidiary, SpaceLogistics, in integrating and deploying the PRM on the Mission Robotic Vehicle.
Taking this collaboration a step further, the company secured the Geosynchronous Auxiliary Support Tanker (GAS-T) contract from SSC. This contract sets the stage for the development of a refueling tanker, along with associated technologies, aimed at delivering fuel in space.
“Refueling is the key to enhanced maneuverability, enabling our DoD customers to categorically change the way they operate U.S. assets in space. Built on a strong foundation of satellite servicing innovation, we are prepared to deliver a complete refueling architecture solution,” said in a statement Lauren Smith, Northrop Grumman’s program manager for in-space refueling.
In-space refueling as a win
Rob Hauge, president of SpaceLogistics at Northrop Grumman, underscored the significance of on-orbit refueling in a 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,” he said. The company, as the first and only company successfully conducting commercial in-space servicing missions in GEO, continues to “collaborate with SSC and other government entities to mature in-space refueling capabilities”.
The refueling interface system under development by Northrop Grumman encompasses key elements for successful docking and fuel transfer, coupled with a specialized refueling payload designed to handle the intricacies of in-space fuel transfer.
This breakthrough follows years of work across various government contracts and internal investments, validated by numerous successful design reviews and rigorous test campaigns.