Engineers prolong satellite life
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., Sept. 6 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists have developed a new technique, involving maximizing the device's fuel stores, to extend the life of aging satellites.
Purdue University and Lockheed Martin Corp. researchers said their technique involves equalizing the amount of propellant left in a satellite's fuel tanks, allowing the satellite to consume all of its fuel before being retired from service.
That technique has saved $60 million for broadcasters by extending the service life of two communications satellites that would otherwise have been shut down.
Communications satellites are maintained in orbit about 22,500 miles above Earth by using small rocket thrusters. But the satellites must be replaced shortly before they run out of fuel to make sure they can be moved to make room for their replacements.
Although modern satellites generally have a single fuel tank, it was common years ago to design satellites with more than one tank, the researchers said. Consequently, there are many aging satellites in orbit that could benefit from the new newly developed technology.
The research was detailed in a paper in the Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets.
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