Lockheed Martin launches universal USB-like plug-in for satellites

A conceptual design shows how a docking port can be integrated into a satellite using the Mission Augmentation Port (MAP) interface standard. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

SPACE SYMPOSIUM: Lockheed Martin is not only building a new interface and docking system to upgrade payloads or move a satellite’s mission into orbit, but it’s also looking to influence world-wide standardization. industry around their approach, according to company officials.

“Lockheed Martin has really made strides in pushing open source interface standards, especially related to in-orbit service,” Paul Pelley, senior director of advanced programs at Lockheed Martin Space, told Breaking Defense just before the opening. of the Space Foundation. Annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.

The company’s new satellite adapter kit, called Augmentation System Port Interface (ASPIN), provides both a power and data interface as well as a docking mechanism that fits onto a host satellite. This interface would then allow the owner/operator to later contract a servicing spacecraft to fly and mate upgraded payloads to the old one sitting in orbit, or even replace the old one with new ones with different missions, explained Pelley.

He likened it to a USB port on modern computers, allowing multiple types of devices and applications to be connected and downloaded.

But thinking even further, the defense giant on April 4 (opening day of the Symposium) published online what it calls the Mission Augmentation Port (MAP) interface standard which explains how any other company could also build a similar interface/docking system for their own spacecraft.

The standards documents posted online “can be used by designers to develop their own MAP-compliant docking adapters which, unless discussed between services and hosts to coordinate missions, will enable interoperability of satellites from mooring,” the statement said. “Specifically, the published documents contain the information required for a conforming physical companion of the docking port halves, such as plate and petal dimensions.”

During a media tour of the Littleton, Colorado factory on the same day, Pelley noted that the ASPIN itself is MAP-compliant, and that ASPIN will now be part of its LM 2100 battle bus basic as well as its smaller ones.

LM 2100 is the base of the Space Force Spatial Infrared System (SBIRS) geosynchronous satellite 5. It will also be used in newer versions of the GPS III Follow-on (GPS IIIF) satellites, starting with Space Vehicle 13 (SV-13). Space Force in October 2020 exercised the option in its 2018 contract with Lockheed Martin to purchase the GPS IIIF SV-13 and -14; and in November 2021, it opted for the SV-15, -16 and -17.

That said, Pelley explained, it will be up to Space Force, as the customer, to decide if it wants to upgrade these satellites after launch in the future.

Plus, he said, “it’s an open field as to what’s going on there.” In fact, Pelley said he hopes the adapter will inspire companies in the space industry to develop applications for it – and that a number of small businesses have contacted him about possible uses.

“They are all ready to come,” he said.

Dino J. Dotson