Standard Article

Fractionated Spacecraft: Exploring Possible Futures of Space Systems

Vehicle Design

Space Vehicles and Travel

  1. Owen Brown1,
  2. Paul Collopy2

Published Online: 15 DEC 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470686652.eae420

Encyclopedia of Aerospace Engineering

Encyclopedia of Aerospace Engineering

How to Cite

Brown, O. and Collopy, P. 2010. Fractionated Spacecraft: Exploring Possible Futures of Space Systems. Encyclopedia of Aerospace Engineering. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    KTSi, Leesburg, VA, USA

  2. 2

    Value-Driven Design Institute, Urbana, IL, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2010


In this chapter, spacecraft fractionation is described. In this approach, a satellite is decomposed into a cluster-flown, wirelessly linked, distributed network, which can carry out the same function as a comparable monolith. The origins of the concept are described that lead to a full depiction of the approach. The benefits of fractionation are articulated using the concepts of flexibility and robustness. Means to measure value, to include derived value from flexibility and robustness, are detailed using the net present value methodology. Finally, the technological and policy-oriented challenges are discussed.


  • abstraction;
  • cluster flight;
  • cyberspace;
  • distributed computing;
  • flexibility;
  • fractionation;
  • ground system;
  • IP;
  • module;
  • net present value;
  • network;
  • node;
  • power beaming;
  • robustness;
  • satellite;
  • spacecraft;
  • wireless;
  • value centric