We’re only a few months into 2019, and CONFERS has already seen a lot of progress as we begin our second year.
The year began with our members approving publication of the first set of CONFERS Recommended Design and Operating Practices, a follow-on to the Guiding Principles we published in November of 2018. The Practices are the result of several months of hard work by our members and government technical experts to lay the foundation for future technical standards.
We’ve also seen steady growth in our membership, now up to 24 total members. As a result of our growth, we held our first elections for the Executive Committee, which will take over from the Formation Committee. We are excited to be working with the new Executive Committee to continue to grow CONFERS, and promote commercial satellite servicing, and create a stronger voice for industry among government policymakers and regulators.
We have a busy schedule of events lined up for 2019, with workshops in the United States and Europe focusing on how CONFERS will engage standards development organizations and expand our technical discussions to include satellite servicing and interfaces. Our second year of operations will culminate once again in the Global Satellite Servicing Forum, which will be held October 1-2, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Read on for more details about all these topics, as well as an industry perspective from two of our member companies!
Dr. Brian Weeden
Executive Director, CONFERS
By: Brian Weeden, Executive Director
The main objective of CONFERS is to bring together experts from industry and government to develop principles, practices, and technical standards that will enable commercial satellite servicing. Our work toward this goal has evolved into a multi-tiered process that began with research on the existing practices and standards for Rendezvous and Proximity Operations (RPO), followed by a series of workshops with members and government technical experts to build upon that research. In November 2018, our members approved the first set of Guiding Principles for Commercial Rendezvous and Proximity Operations (RPO) and On-Orbit Servicing (OOS). This document highlights consensual operations, compliance with relevant laws and regulations, responsible operations, and transparency as the key principles that will underpin commercial RPO and OOS.
On February 1, 2019, our members approved a complimentary document, the first CONFERS Recommended Design and Operating Practices. The Practices build on the Principles to provide more details about specific recommendations for improving the safety, transparency, and efficiency of commercial RPO and satellite servicing. The practices highlight the importance of looking at mission planning in a holistic manner and incorporating safety into not only the hardware and software design, but also concepts of operation, procedures, training, and development of external resources. RPO and OOS missions should also be designed to minimize the risk and consequences of mishaps, incorporating concepts such as passively safe trajectories and conducting experiments and first-time check-out outside of protected regions. Operators should take steps to avoid physical or electromagnetic interference at all times and should share information on how anomalies or failures were resolved so that the community can learn together. Finally, operators should work with the rest of the space community to develop and promote guidelines and mechanisms to enhance the long-term sustainability of space activities.
While we see these recommended practices as a significant first step, they are just that – a first step. During the rest of 2019, we will continue to refine these recommendations and will expand them to include satellite servicing and interfaces. We plan to publish an updated set of practices by the end of 2019.
By: Stacey Lindbergh, CONFERS Program Manager
The CONFERS members recently elected seven representatives to serve on the consortium’s inaugural Executive Committee. The Executive Committee is the CONFERS leadership and governance body authorized to oversee the activities of the consortium and to exercise all the powers and authority in managing the business and other affairs of the consortium. The Executive Committee’s specific responsibilities include:
In addition to the elected member representatives, the Consortium Manager and Executive Director from the CONFERS Secretariat each have one permanent seat on the Executive Committee. Those individuals are Brian Weeden, CONFERS Executive Director, Secure World Foundation; and Brian Delamater, Consortium Manager, Advanced Technology International.
Four (4) of the above Executive Committee Members will have a one-time three-year term in order to provide continuity during CONFERS startup, after which the Executive Committee will establish an annual rotation cycle of approximately half of the elected committee members.
The Executive Committee will be meeting in the next several weeks to conduct an orientation, elect a Chair and officers, and begin work on initial priority areas, including determining membership dues and establishing a business plan for transitioning CONFERS to private sector funding over the next few years.
By: Jim Armor, Vice President of Government Services, SpaceLogistics LLC; and Chris Blackerby, Chief Operating Officer, Astroscale
On behalf of the other member companies, we are excited by the opportunity to work through CONFERS to help develop the principles, practices, and standards that will propel the satellite servicing industry. As members of the Executive Committee, we have seen CONFERS grow over the last year to include 24 international industry members that represent a diverse cross section – in terms of geography, size, business type, and service offering of the growing global satellite servicing community. While still young, the global satellite servicing industry holds great promise for enabling future capabilities that will make use of space safer, more efficient, and more sustainable.CONFERS will play an important role in promoting and enabling the growth of the satellite servicing sector in several essential ways. First, by providing a collaborative forum where industry actors can work together to develop and establish recommended practices and standards for safe and responsible commercial OOS and RPO activities, CONFERS will help ensure this transformative area of commercial space activity develops on a safe and sustainable path. Second, as we and our industry colleagues field capabilities and further develop operational experience in the coming years, CONFERS will also serve as a platform to exchange lessons learned and to update practices based on operational experience. Finally, CONFERS’ engagement as an industry association with the governments and international organizations around the world will play a key role in developing future oversight and licensing of commercial satellite servicing activities.
As CONFERS continues to grow and expand its membership and activities, we look forward to playing an active role in helping to shape the future of commercial satellite servicing, which by extension will contribute to untold benefits for the future of space development, utilization and exploration.
By: Ian Christensen, Stakeholder Engagement Coordinator
After the 2018 publication of the CONFERS Guiding Principles for Commercial Rendezvous and Proximity Operations and the February 2019 release of the CONFERS Recommended Design and Operational Practices, CONFERS activities will widen their focus during the rest of this year. Guided by the newly seated CONFERS Executive Committee, our members will focus on expanding and refining the CONFERS principles and practices for RPO and OOS operations. The consortium will also continue to engage industry, government, and standards community stakeholders across the globe.
A series of four CONFERS workshops are being planned throughout 2019 to advance the consortium’s work. These workshops will be held in:
A CONFERS Technical Working Group has also been established to continue discussions and work in between these in-person workshops, and the CONFERS Research Director is performing an assessment of existing practices and experience related to OOS operations.
A key expansion of CONFERS technical activities in 2019 will be our increased engagement with international standards development organizations (SDOs). The April 2019 workshop will focus on CONFERS’ engagement with SDOs, and the June 2019 workshop will coincide with a meeting of the International Standards Organization (ISO) Subcommittee for Space Systems and Operations (SC14). We encourage CONFERS members to reach out to their national ISO Points of Contact (POCs) now and engage with them on satellite servicing.
While the industry members of CONFERS continue to develop outputs, the CONFERS Secretariat will continue outreach on behalf of consortium. Already in 2019, CONFERS has been highlighted in a technical presentation to the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in Vienna, Austria, and at the Japan Space Forum’s “Symposium on Ensuring the Stable Use of Outer Space” in Tokyo, Japan. Secretariat members will also be attending and participating in the:
CONFERS is pleased to announce that we will again host our own Global Satellite Servicing Forum (GSSF) to provide a dedicated public conference for discussion of the development of the satellite servicing industry. The 2019 GSSF-expanded to 1.5 day program-will be held in Washington, DC, October 1-2. Sponsorship packages are available, and details on the agenda and programming of the Forum are forthcoming via our website and mailing list.
The members and Secretariat of CONFERS look forward to engaging with stakeholders across the space community at all of our 2019 events and activities. The consortium remains open to member applications-details on how to join can be found on the CONFERS website.