A NASA plan to test robotic spacecraft servicing technologies with potential commercial applications has MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) andworried that their own satellite refueling venture may never get off the ground, the Toronto Globe and Mail reports.
Satellite operator Intelsat agreed to be the initial anchor customer for a satellite refueling craft planned by MDA, which specializes in space robotics. The companies view government satellite operators as a strong market for the planned service and are hoping an agency like NASA will step in with support,
But a NASA satellite refueling demonstration bound for the international space station on the last space shuttle mission, scheduled to launch July 8, could lay the ground work for a government competitor, the companies said.
“If NASA goes ahead with a commercial project (it is soliciting partners to assess the situation and MDA is among the bidders), the MDA-Intelsat venture likely cannot proceed. MDA’s business plan is dependent on winning some work servicing U.S. government satellites. If NASA is in the picture, such business probably won’t go to the Canadian company.
“‘We would have very challenging competition for the important U.S. government market,’ said Steve Oldham, president of MDA’s satellite servicing business.”