In a conversation with SSPI’s Robert Bell, we hear from Manwei
Chan, Project Manager and team leader for the MIT team in the 2018
SSPI-SEDS Competition: Designing the Robotic Space Tug.
Manwei’s team took second place in the competition with their
design of a pair of Full Service SpaceTugs with highly capable
robotic arms, enabling them to dock with a wide variety of LEO
satellites and service even satellites with no service-enabling
features or technology on board. The SpaceTugs would be capable of
refueling hydrazine, moving/removing, surveying, and limited
repair. Each SpaceTug would have a different specialty based on its
secondary propulsion system, with one SpaceTug servicing
sun-synchronous orbits with its large hydrazine tank, while the
second SpaceTug would be capable of performing higher delta-V
maneuvers at a slower pace with its electric propulsion system.
Manwei is a Matthew Isakowitz Fellow, Draper Fellow, NSF Fellow and
PhD candidate at MIT, where he has worked on numerous aerospace
projects. He developed a guidance algorithm allowing satellite
servicers to approach and match angular rates with an uncontrolled
tumbling client and advanced development programs and business
development for NanoRacks with a focus on commercializing assets in
LEO. Manwei is the President of MIT SEDS, a chapter that he
rebooted. He also runs the MIT Space Seminar.