Reboost Package

 

Reboost packages[i] have been proposed, to extend the lifetime of geosynchronous satellites. Since present-day GEO satellites are not designed to handle refueling, the reboost package is an autonomous system including fuel, an engine, controls and communications, as well as the capacity to rendezvous and attach to a satellite.  Reboost packages are extremely significant, because they substantially extend the lifetime of a satellite. The military interest in this stems from the possibility to execute several plane-change maneuvers, which are expensive in fuel consumption, to respond to international crises. Initial customers outside the military are expected to be GEO satellite operators whose satellites are nearing their successful design life. These satellites have paid off, and are generating revenue at little cost. Additional life would be gravy. The ability to do orbit reboost vastly reduces the risk of GEO launches, and thus reduces insurance costs.

 

The idea of reboost has been discussed in conference presentations and DARPA solicitations. In the US, the reboost package is modeled as an enterprise developed under DoD sponsorship, aimed at enabling DoD satellites to perform plane changes, and extend their lifetimes. Thus it is expected that the development cost is already borne by DoD, and the enterprise is ready for commercialization. It is expected that this will be restricted to US-flag GEO communications satellites until ITAR concerns are addressed. The reboost business was modeled, with an assumed number of GEO satellites as the market. It is argued that ITAR exemption may be possible for this application, as long as it is limited to civilian/ commercial satellites, and the launch is done from the US, so that the equipment is never out of US hands until it reaches Space, when it is beyond anyone's reach. An example of a public-domain reference to a reboost-capable system developed by China, with commercial potential is cited here[ii].

 

For our purposes, DoD funding is assumed to have paid for the development of the US technology when it goes commercial in the US, so that it has an easier time reaching breakeven. Parameters are given below. Reboost is clearly a limited-window business opportunity, as future satellites designed for on-orbit refueling will render the engine, controls, power systems and fuel tanks of the reboost package superfluous. Accordingly, the graph below shows the NPV crossing zero quickly, and rising to a good level, but then peaking and dropping thereafter.

 

 

Per Package

Mass - 500 kg

Revenue - $60 million

Cost:

    Material - $20 million

    Maintenance - $10 million

    Launch - $13 million

    Fixed - $3 million

 

Launch Costs determined by $26,000/kg to GEO (source:  Futron[iii] , $13,000/kg to LEO)


Revenue starts decreasing by 5%, 13 years after start of company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[i] Ellis, J.B., "Teleoperation Experiment Model".  In "An Investigation of Predictive and Adaptive Model-Based Methods for Direct Ground-to-Space Teleoperation with Time Delay". MS Thesis, Wright State University, 1998. http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Hangar/2883/thesis/thesis_2.html Viewed Aug. 24, 2006.

[ii] Jones, M., "Shenzhou: A Model Program". Space Daily, Nov. 15, 2000. http://www.spacedaily.com/news/china-00zzo2.html  Viewed Aug. 24, 2006.

[iii]Futron Corporation. Space Transportation Costs: Trends in Price Per Pound to Orbit 1990-2000. 6 September

2002. 22 August 2006. http://www.futron.com/pdf/FutronLaunchCostWP.pdf  Viewed Aug. 23, 2006.