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The Space Superhighway

The Space Superhighway

A commercial-first space infrastructure


The Space Superhighway is a commercial-first space infrastructure that contains three primary components: regional hubs, a sustainable transportation network, and Earth-to-orbit logistics.

Civil, commercial, and national security space sectors could use this common infrastructure to support missions such as satellite servicing, Earth science, and space domain awareness, among others. It uses a commercial-first, “infrastructure-as-a-service” approach, which contains industry-owned and operated assets with government anchor tenants for commercial services, enabling extended mission lifetime, on-orbit repair, maneuver without regret, and debris mitigation and removal.

The Space Superhighway is the space infrastructure needed for the 21st century.


Our Experience and Capabilities

The Systems Analysis and Concepts Directorate (SACD) is located at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA and supports the future of aeronautics, exploration, space operations, and science.

As part of SACD, the Space Mission Analysis Branch (SMAB) serves as a premiere space concepts and systems analysis organization, enabling well-informed decision-making throughout NASA with integrated analysis and assessments of complex space systems, architectures, and portfolios based on benefit, cost, and risk. Through support of a broad set of agency customers, SMAB provides holistic insights within and across organizations that advance NASA’s human exploration and robotic scientific missions.

•We’ve analyzed concepts such as cis-lunar logistics and debris remediation
•We’ve established methods and tools for comparing space-logistics architectures

Our capabilities include:
•Trade space analysis
•Vehicle modeling and sizing
•Cost estimation
•Visualization

Learn more about our branch and meet our team by visiting our website.


Components of the Space Superhighway

Regional Hubs

  • Establish strategic footholds in space 
  • Provide utilities to hosted payloads
  • Provide refueling and services to the transportation network 
  • Serve as a regional logistics depot

Sustainable Transportation Network

  • Provides rapid and responsive mobility
  • Transports logistics between regional hubs
  • Supports responsible disposal and debris mitigation

Earth-to-Orbit Logistics 

  • Fosters a competitive commercial launch industry 
  • Provides routine, low-cost access to space

Publications

The Space Superhighway: Space Infrastructure for the 21st Century
Deborah Tomek, Dr. Dale Arney, John Mulvaney, Christina Williams, Jill McGuire, Brian Roberts, Jeramie Broadway, Karl Stolleis, Josh Davis, Greg Richardson, Christopher Stockdale
Conference Paper, The International Astronautical Congress 2022
https://ntrs.nasa.gov/citations/20220012880

This paper introduces a concept for space infrastructure developed with input from multiple U.S. government agencies called the Space Superhighway, which could support civil, commercial, and national security space activities. The Space Superhighway is a commercial-first space infrastructure that contains three primary components: regional hubs, a sustainable transportation network, and Earth-to-orbit logistics. Civil, commercial, and national security space sectors could use this common infrastructure to support missions such as satellite servicing, Earth science, and space domain awareness, among others. It utilizes a commercial-first, “infrastructure-as-a-service” approach which contains industry-owned and operated assets with government anchor tenants for commercial services, enabling extended mission lifetime, on-orbit repair, maneuver without regret, and debris mitigation and removal.

Contact Info:
Dr. Dale Arney, dale.c.arney@nasa.gov
John Mulvaney, john.w.mulvaney@nasa.gov


The Space Superhighway: Systems Analysis of an In-Space Logistics Network
Paul Friz and Daniel Tiffin
Conference Paper, AIAA 2022-4203
Session: Infrastructure and LEO Topics I
Published Online: 15 Oct 2022
https://arc.aiaa.org/doi/10.2514/6.2022-4203

The number of assets in cislunar space is anticipated to dramatically increase in the coming decades. Many of these newer spacecraft are designed to take advantage of capabilities currently in development, like In-Space Servicing Assembly and Manufacturing (ISAM).

NASA intends to develop and maintain a human-lunar presence that will then serve as a steppingstone for human missions to Mars. With continued growth in space operations, the combined demand for payload and propellant delivery in cislunar space could exceed 1,000 t annually within the next decade. In order to meet this projected demand, there is national interest in developing an ISAM-enabled logistics network, commonly referred to as the “Space Superhighway.”

This study explored several architecture and vehicle-level trade studies in order to better understand what in-space logistics networks may be feasible.

Contact Info:
Daniel Tiffin, daniel.j.tiffin@nasa.gov
Dr. Paul Friz, paul.d.friz@nasa.gov


The Space Superhighway: A Cost Analysis of an In-Space Logistics Resupply Network
Paul D. Friz, Daniel J. Tiffin and Edward Rosenthal
Conference Paper, AIAA 2022-4254
Session: Transport and Logistics
Published Online: 15 Oct 2022
https://doi.org/10.2514/6.2022-4254

Fully expendable architecture vs. fully reusable architecture (not to scale)

In the next several years, the number of spacecraft in cislunar space will increase significantly. Commercial launch service providers have significantly reduced the cost of access to space and reduced the barrier to entry for private companies to build and operate their own satellites. Many of these newer satellites are designed to take advantage of future In-space Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing (ISAM) capabilities.

NASA intends to develop and maintain a sustained human presence in cislunar space and on the surface of the Moon, which will then serve as a steppingstone for human missions to Mars. The combined demand for propellant resupply and payload delivery in cislunar space for NASA’s Moon to Mars campaign in addition to commercial ventures will likely exceed 1,000 t in the upcoming decades.

This work presents a concept for an in-space logistics network to fulfill that demand. The network consists of commercial launch vehicles, propellant tankers, orbital depots, and in-space electric propulsion tugs. This work specifically analyzes the cost of developing, producing, and operating such a network at varying levels of customer demand.

Contact Info:
Daniel Tiffin, daniel.j.tiffin@nasa.gov
Dr. Paul Friz, paul.d.friz@nasa.gov


Related Projects


For partnership opportunities or questions

Dr. Dale Arney – dale.c.arney@nasa.gov