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NASA starts consortium for ISAM technologies

Jim Reuter at 38th Space Symposium
Jim Reuter, NASA associate administrator for space technology, announced the new COSMIC consortium April 19 at Space Symposium. Credit: Thomas Kimmell

COLORADO SPRINGS — NASA announced April 19 the creation of a new organization devoted to advancing technologies for in-space servicing, assembly and manufacturing (ISAM).

NASA said the Consortium for Space Mobility and ISAM Capabilities, COSMIC, will start work this fall to coordinate work among companies and organizations regarding technologies related to servicing and repairing spacecraft in space.

“Our goal for COSMIC is to accelerate the universal adoption of ISAM capabilities to develop the next generation of space architectures and make ISAM a routine part of the space enterprise,” said Jim Reuter, NASA associate administrator for space technology, during a panel at the 38th Space Symposium here where he announced the formation of COSMIC.

NASA is following the guidance from a national ISAM implementation plan released in December by the White House, intended to provide specific guidance to government agencies to carry out a national ISAM strategy released a year ago. That plan directed NASA to establish a national consortium “to improve communication between government, industry, and academia” in the field.

COSMIC will have several focus areas, ranging from research and development of ISAM technologies to incorporating those technologies into missions. Officials with NASA and the Aerospace Corporation, which is managing COSMIC for NASA, say they want to address gaps in ISAM technologies and provide organizations considering adopting servicing capabilities more information about them.

“Our long-term vision is that we want to make ISAM part of long-term space architectures and mission life cycles,” said Greg Richardson, executive director for COSMIC at Aerospace. “We want to make it so that there are routine aspects to this in terms of acquisition, technology development and mission operations.”

“We have to make it such that the decision makers that decide to adopt ISAM or not have the data they need to be able to make those decisions. Does that data exist today? I don’t think it does,” said Trudy Kortes, technology demonstrations director in NASA’s Space Technologies Mission Directorate.

Richardson said it was important to have both developers of ISAM technologies as well as users of those technologies as part of COSMIC. That includes companies, universities and government agencies. The kickoff meeting of COSMIC is scheduled for the fall.

COSMIC will be distinct from another industry group, CONFERS, which DARPA helped establish as the Consortium for Execution of Rendezvous and Servicing Operations and is now a standalone organization. CONFERS is supporting the development of satellite servicing standards, while COSMIC will work on ISAM technologies.

“We’re really focused on not duplicating what they’re doing,” Kortes said, with any standards work related to ISAM handed off to that organization. Another difference is that NASA plans to fund COSMIC for the foreseeable future and won’t require participating organizations to pay membership fees, which she said is intended to avoid “consortium fatigue.”

Reuter compared COSMIC to the Lunar Surface Innovation Consortium, which NASA established to coordinate research on technologies needed for lunar surface exploration. “The objective of that is to really get a community together sharing information, sharing ideas and understanding better what’s going on,” he said. “It’s worked fantastic there and we’re really anxious to do it here.”

“I think it is really important to bring the community together, especially around something as important as ISAM,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy of COSMIC during the Space Symposium panel.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...