Our Vision: Enable NASA to realize the capabilities of assembling and servicing future spacecraft in space to solve the deepest scientific mysteries of the Cosmos.

Above: Concepts for servicing and in-space assembly of future large space telescopes. Left: Lunar Orbital Platform - Gateway (NASA). Center: Evolvable Space Telescope, Polidan et al (2016). Right: Assemblable large segmented space telescope Lee et al. (2016)

Welcome to the NASA Exoplanet Exploration Program's in-Space Servicing & Assembly (iSSA) website. We are actively exploring the benefits of assembling future large telescopes in space rather than autonomously deploying them. One day NASA will want to launch a telescope or interferometer whose size and/or mass exceeds the launch capability of our largest rockets. Additionally, the deployment schemes may be very complicated and perhaps carry too much risk of something going wrong. In those cases, assembling these structures in space will be the enabling capability. Today, the largest telescope aperture that can be autonomously deployed is 6.5 m, to be demonstrated by NASA's James Webb Space Telescope.

But will in-space assembly be a reality in 10 years or 40 years? We don’t yet know.

We are examining the following questions:

  1. At what telescope aperture (or cost) would it be less expensive to assemble the telescope in space rather than deploy autonomously?
  2. What risks does iSSA mitigate compared to autonomous deployment? What risks are increased?
  3. How would a large telescope (> 15 m diameter) be assembled in space? And what would that cost?
  4. In what orbit would that assembly be conducted?
  5. What technologies are required to enable such an assembly? What is the state-of-art and what are the technology gaps?
  6. What technology demonstrations would help advance the technology?
  7. What is the optimal balance between astronauts and robots in assembling large telescopes in space?
  8. How will future large telescopes be serviced to extend their lives and upgrade their payload instruments?
  9. Why consider this now?

Upcoming Presentations and Events:

coming soon

Recent Presentations and News:

Nicholas Siegler, Ronald Polidan, Alison Barto panel discussion on "Future Enabling Capabilities Servicing, Comm, Assembly" The Space Astrophysics Landscape in the 2020's and Beyond, Potomac, MD April 2, 2019.

Harley Thronson et al., iposter Building Astronomy's Future in Space:
Progress in Designing a Large In-Space Assembled Telescope (iSAT)
223rd meeting of the AAS Seattle WA January 2019

Dr. Nicholas Siegler talk Building the Future: Assessing In-Space Assembly of Future Space Telescopes. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Systems Engineering Seminar, 7 November, 2018. presentation stream archive

AIAA Space 2018, Orlando, 17 — 19 September, 2018

Dr. Rudranarayan Mukherjee (JPL) Future In-Space Operations (FISO) teleconference presentation June 27, 2018. Robotic Assembly of Space Assets: Architectures and Technologies.

SPIE Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation: Austin TX June 10-15, 2018

Building The Future: in-Space Servicing and Assembly of Large Aperture Space Telescopes JPL-Max Plank Institute for Astronomy direct imaging technology workshop. Pasadena CA April 12, 2018

What Robotics in Space Can Enable: 2025-2035, Goddard Symposium Panel, Greenbelt MD, March 15, 2018

Deep Space Gateway (DSG) Science Workshop, Denver, February 27 — March 1, 2018

"On-Orbit Assembly of Space Assets: A Path to Affordable and Adaptable Space Infrastructure" Dr. Danielle Piskorz and Dr. Karen L. Jones, The Aerospace Corporation.

Future In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group presentation: February 21, 2018

"Humanity's Biggest Machines Will Be Built in Space" Popular Mechanics Feb 16, 2018

"Scientists and engineers push for servicing and assembly of future space observatories" Space News Jan 10, 2018

231st American Astronomical Society Splinter Session: Astronomers, Astronauts and Robots: Enabling the Most Ambitious Future Space Observatories

National Harbor MD Jan 9, 2018

Archived Papers / Slides

* ExEP = NASA Astrophysics Division Exoplanet Exploration Program