The Space Shuttle made several servicing mission for satellites, most famous ones would be to service Hubble.

Hubble serviced by the shuttle

Would theses kinds of operations be feasible with a Soyuz spacecraft ? Would it be practical or make sense (maybe todays technology make it more practical to just send a new satellite to replace the old one) ?

  • $\begingroup$ Even with the Hubble, it would have cost less to send up a new satellite. There were a few reasons that this was not done with Hubble, one of which was US pride as the Hubble was a flagship mission and could not be left 'defective'. Another reason is that the satellite chassis was a leftover keyhole chassis, and I believe that there were no more keyhole chassis left to build on at the time. Only in 2010 or so did NASA get another unused keyhole chassis. $\endgroup$ – dotancohen Aug 13 '15 at 21:43
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    $\begingroup$ That is such a beautiful picture. $\endgroup$ – geoffc Aug 13 '15 at 22:12
  • $\begingroup$ I kind of disagree with the answers. Technically, Salyuts, Almazes, Mir and the ISS are / were satellites with docking nodes. $\endgroup$ – Deer Hunter Aug 14 '15 at 1:59
  • $\begingroup$ Also of note: Soyuz-P and later military Soyuz versions. $\endgroup$ – Deer Hunter Aug 14 '15 at 3:15
  • $\begingroup$ @dotancohen do you have any source for that ? $\endgroup$ – Antzi Aug 14 '15 at 6:46

In short, no.

The Soyuz could probably rendezvous with a satellite, assuming it was in the right orbital range, but would not be able to dock to it (unless the satellite happened to have been built with this in mind) or grapple it - the Hubble here was grappled by the manipulator arm, which the Soyuz does not have, and then berthed inside the payload bay.

After this, you'd have to have someone go outside to do the work. A Soyuz could theoretically support an EVA (using the orbital module as an airlock) - but it would have to be modified for it. The last time an EVA took place directly from a Soyuz was in early 1969. Even if they did get outside, there would be very little space for handholds and so forth compared to the much large Shuttle - certainly no spacious payload bay with attachment points - and of course no manipulator arm to help them reach the satellite and move around safely.

So even if they did get outside (from a heavily modified Soyuz) they'd be more or less stuck hanging on and waving at the satellite...

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  • $\begingroup$ I'd seriously consider grappling the satellite with straps while on EVA then work on it. The pilot can use rcs to keep close enough. $\endgroup$ – Joshua Aug 13 '15 at 23:28
  • $\begingroup$ STS-49 did grapple a satellite manually. It required several EVAs and three crewmembers doing the grappling, but it worked. $\endgroup$ – Deer Hunter Aug 14 '15 at 3:10
  • $\begingroup$ Personally, I believe a much more viable way would be to equip the astronauts with a good, reliable propulsion unit, forfeit any docking/tethering attempts, and have the astronauts fly to the satellite, tether to it and work on it directly; then, when the repair is done, maneuver Soyuz back into vicinity and return using the APUs $\endgroup$ – SF. Jun 28 '16 at 9:14

The other thing the Shuttle had that was unique was a lot of space in the payload bay. For Hubble servicing missions, the telescope was captured by the CanadArm and docked to a turntable in the payload bay.

Thus they had a stable platform to work from. But they also had places where equipment (New components) and tools could be stored easy to access. There was lots of room to store all the tools, and parts they needed.

Soyuz is severely limited in this respect. You could not really mount things on the outside and survive launch.

Now you could build a platform that Soyuz could dock too, that would carry all this with Soyuz behaving as the launch and return vehicle for the fragile humans. But everything else on the other vehicle. \

If Orion was to be seriously considered for such a task it would probably follow such an approach of some kind of logistics or service module to carry most of the stuff needed and Orion just being the human transport component of it.

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