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astronautix.com Space Tug

OTV Turtle 2
OTV Turtle 2
Space Tug. This illustration (from 1984) depicts a manned space tug returning to a space station from geostationary or lunar orbit. The vehicle passes through the Earth's atmosphere to slow down; its aeroshell is heated to thousands of degrees by kinetic friction. The small cylinder is the crew module.

Credit: NASA via Marcus Lindroos. 30,018 bytes. 448 x 381 pixels.


Nation: USA. Agency: NASA.

One of the Science and Applications Manned Space Platform's most important missions was to serve as a 'space harbour' for missions to geostationary orbit, where most communications satellites are located. Large satellites would be delivered to SAMSP from Earth by the Space Shuttle for final assembly and checkout. An Orbital Transfer Vehicle or space tug would then transport the satellite to geostationary orbit. The space tug would be permanently based at the space station in low Earth orbit. NASA/Johnson also regarded the space tug as an integral component of its Space Operations Center plan.


OTV / SAMPSOTV / SAMPS - Space Tug. One of the Science & Applications Manned Space Platform's most important missions was to serve as a "space harbor" for missions to geostationary orbit, where most communications satellites are located.

Credit: NASA via Marcus Lindroos. 36,268 bytes. 639 x 478 pixels.


NASA's 1980s space tug plans were usually based on the aerobraking concept. A NASA/Marshall concept from 1985 was equipped with a huge disc-shaped aeroshell which slowed the vehicle down as it passed through the Earth's upper atmosphere. The space tug could then return heavy payloads from geostationary or lunar orbit without using any fuel to rendezvous with the low Earth orbit space station. Another NASA/Marshall space tug concept from 1985 would have had better manoeuvrability thanks to its aerodynamic shape, but it would also weigh more.


SOC OTV - 1982SOC OTV - 1982 - Space Tug / Space Operations Center, 1982. NASA/Johnson also regarded the space tug as an integral component of its Space Operations Center plan. This Boeing illustration from 1982 depicts a space tug being serviced inside its hangar onboard SOC.

Credit: NASA via Marcus Lindroos. 55,503 bytes. 640 x 480 pixels.


A modular design was proposed by General Dynamics in 1984. Spherical tanks contained liquid hydrogen and oxygen propellant for the engines; three sets would be carried for manned or heavy-lift missions while one set would suffice for delivering smaller unmanned payloads.


OTV - BRL -1985OTV - BRL -1985 - 1985 Lifting Body Space Tug Design. A NASA/Marshall space tug concept from 1985. This design would have better maneuvrability thanks to its aerodynamic shape, but it would also weigh more.

Credit: NASA via Marcus Lindroos. 19,814 bytes. 525 x 276 pixels.


The space tug also figured in the 1986 'Pioneering the Space Frontier' policy report. These vehicles would transport crews and equipment from space stations in low Earth orbit to lunar orbit. Boeing and Martin Marietta were awarded $1-million study contracts in July 1984 as NASA was hoping to receive full funding to complete the $2.75-billion project in the 1990s. However, the project was essentially postponed indefinitely in late 1985 when the Boeing and Martin contracts expired.


Space Tugs - 1985Space Tugs - 1985 - 1985 Space Tug Designs. NASA's 1980s space tug plans were usually based on the aerobraking concept. This NASA/Marshall concept from 1985 is equipped with a huge disc-shaped aeroshell which slows the vehicle down as it passes through the Earth's upper atmosphere. The space tug could then return heavy payloads from geostationary orbit without using any fuel to rendezvous with the low Earth orbit space station.

Credit: NASA via Marcus Lindroos. 24,710 bytes. 398 x 403 pixels.


Article by Marcus Lindroos
Specification



Space Tug - GD -1985Space Tug - GD -1985 - Space Tug - General Dynamics, 1985. NASA originally hoped to develop a space tug in the 1990s for manned missions to geostationary orbit and beyond. This modular design (from 1984) was proposed by General Dynamics who investigated space station/space tug integration issues in the early 1980s. Spherical tanks contain liquid hydrogen and oxygen propellant for the engines; three sets would be carried for manned or heavy-lift missions while one set would suffice for delivering smaller unmanned payloads. Note Shuttle and space station in the background.

Credit: NASA via Marcus Lindroos. 58,517 bytes. 577 x 442 pixels.



OTV - 1986OTV - 1986 - Space Tug depicted in NASA's 'Pioneering Space Frontier'. A space tug from the 1986 Pioneering the Space Frontier policy report.

Credit: NASA via Marcus Lindroos. 44,009 bytes. 640 x 475 pixels.



SOTV - 1998SOTV - 1998 - Solar-Powered Orbital Transfer Vehicle, 1998

Credit: NASA via Marcus Lindroos. 39,993 bytes. 503 x 480 pixels.



Shuttle Tug ConceptShuttle Tug Concept

Credit: NASA via Marcus Lindroos. 13,296 bytes. 190 x 472 pixels.



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Last update 12 March 2001.
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