Towards Sustainable Space Logistics Research Collaboration

In the past few years the complexity of space projects has increased, along with more affordable launch costs and improvements in technology. Massive satellites intended for e.g. telecommunications, Earth observation, and astrophysical observations, tend to be replaced with distributed space systems with comparable or superior performance, which are comprised of several smaller satellites. This brings flexibility and robustness to the system but presents a set of unprecedented challenges to mission designers. Indeed, in order to optimally benefit from the advantages of the complex system, it has to be built and maintained sustainably. Depending on the concept, this may include the need for on-orbit assembly, refuelling, commodity replenishment, repairs, upgrades, and active debris removal.

On the other hand, next-generation space exploration programs such as human Mars exploration and settlements require developing an interplanetary transport architecture to ensure the sustainable functioning and development of extraterrestrial outposts. A recent study on the topic made in collaboration between eSpace and Skoltech Space Center demonstrated the advantages of synergy between space architecture, mission design, and space logistics. A trade-off study between different types of supply for a Martian outpost revealed an effective transport architecture, which utilises resources extracted from near-Earth asteroids.

This project aims to reinforce collaboration on the existing research: logistics for Mars settlement supply with space resources. The Skoltech Space Center is responsible for mission design - calculating flight opportunities for goods transportation and supply schedule optimisation - and eSpace for interplanetary network and Mars settlement architecture design. The outcome of the research will contribute to the question, how to ensure colony sustainability during its growth?

Secondly, future research collaboration in new directions such as on-orbit servicing of prospective distributed multi-satellite systems will be planned in the frame of the project. The proposed workshops will gather specialists to map future collaboration combining eSpace’s expertise in logistics and architecture with Skoltech’s expertise in mission design.

Thirdly, the findings of the research will be shared and discussed with young scientists from Switzerland and Russia in the frame of a summer school on Sustainable Space Logistics at the end of the program period, with the aim of broadening the Sustainable Space Logistics community.


École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne:

Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology:

  • Prof. Anton Ivanov
  • Mr. Shamil Biktimirov