Adaptable Multipurpose Satellites

Most current satellites are designed to serve a particular function or functions once on orbit, but what if they could change functions while in orbit? An Aerospace-developed concept named “Hive” intends to use a disaggregated architecture of mass-producible smart units to perform functions once reserved for larger satellites.

Hive units would have the ability to self-assemble and reassemble on-orbit, depending on the required functionality, improving both the agility and resiliency of space systems. For example, Hive could be used as a large, reconfigurable optical telescope. By rearranging Hive units while in orbit, the shape of the telescope mirror could change to show different viewpoints.

Alternatively, a Hive-based satellite could travel to Mars in one configuration while in space, then
reconfigure to form a structure on the surface of the planet after arrival, or form a large truss in
space where other payloads could be attached to perform their missions.

Artist rendering of a sample structure that Hive could assemble in space.

Features of Hive

The building block of the Hive is the individual unit that can be operated independently and interdependently.
A Hive unit:

  • Is small, smart, and massproducible
  • Interlocks with other units and passes power, data, and heat
  • Can rotate a face while attached to other units
  • Can rendezvous, dock, and reconfigure on demand or autonomously

Advantages of a Hive System

  • Hive can build very large structures in space that are too large to fit on a launch vehicle
  • Hive can change its configuration to perform different missions
  • Hive can disperse or change its stance in the event of a threat (e.g., approaching space debris), then reassemble when the threat has passed
  • Malfunctioning or older Hive cells can be individually replaced, making repairs and upgrades easier without loss of overall functionality