Since the launch of Sputnik in 1957, space systems have been built to be operational over their entire mission life cycle without human or physical intervention. For a long time, the possibility to autonomously upgrade, repair, reposition or refuel a satellite in orbit was only a utopia for space operators and manufacturers. However, with innovation and technical progress, In-Orbit services are the object of a renewed interest and could reach a higher level of technological readiness in the coming years. Whilst many challenges remain, this nascent and disruptive activity is often described as a game changer since it has the potential to significantly modify the way space systems are designed, manufactured, and operated.
This report provides a comprehensive definition and assessment of the commercial and institutional landscape related to in-orbit operations in the United States, China, Russia, France, Germany, Italy, The United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Japan, and India. The report also provides an overview regarding the roles and activities of the EU and ESA in this field.
Furthermore, the report provides an overview of the various technological, technical, economic, political, and legal challenges surrounding this technology.
The report concludes that In-Orbit services are a representative case of the changing landscape in the global space sector as well as the challenges faced by the European space sector at large. The report also provides recommendation to European decisionmakers to enable favourable market and institutional conditions for in-orbit services to thrive.