Semi-trucks of space

Your Satellite Needs a Tow? Call the Semi Trucks of Space

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, startup Impulse Space and others are developing craft to move payloads after rockets blast them into orbit

By Micah Maidenberg, The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 22, 2024

Need a lift from one swath of the final frontier to another?

Efforts to build rockets designed to blast cargo or crews into space often grab the spotlight. But a number of companies are also working to develop vehicles to fill another need they see coming: moving those satellites and other payloads around in space…

Such ships would work hand-in-glove with big rockets that are being developed…Those rockets, along with others, are designed to be capable of hoisting large amounts of mass into low-Earth orbit. The spacecraft or satellites deployed during launches could then get a lift from the space-transport craft to their final destinations.

These semi trucks of space, also known as orbital-transfer vehicles, could shift satellites and other devices between orbits, or transport them deeper into space. Space-transport vehicles might change how missions are set up from the outset. … [end quote]

This technology is in the exciting phase between science fiction and commercialization. The commercial benefits are obvious.

The article doesn’t mention it, but there’s a huge amount of space junk cluttering up low Earth orbit. I wonder if a world consortium could be set up to use the orbital transfer vehicles to clean up the orbit by redirecting junk to burn up in the atmosphere.


They’ve tried cleaning plastic out of the ocean without much success. No doubt “space junk” is an even more expensive challenge. Who would pay a tax to do it?

I suspect that the only time they’ll use an orbital transfer vehicle to move the junk around is when a very large piece of space debris is in danger of reaching the ground intact.



At some point all that junk in orbit will be viewed as the incredibly valuable stuff it is (expensive putting matter of any sort at the “high end” of the gravity well).

That point will come when we have clever recycling factories in space, and those factories will depend on

to go out and harvest the “junk”. Junk + clever AI’s + solar power = value.

david fb


A corp may pay to do it to protect their satellite from space debris. Might be cheaper to pay a service to remove debris than it would be to entirely replace a satellite.

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“That’s a nice satellite you have there. Sure be a shame if some space junk ran into it.” :smiley: Couldn’t resist.