Dennis Wingo has become a leading innovator in private space development, especially with regard to commercial operations that take place in space. His company Skycorp, for example, put forward the first serious proposal to do spacecraft assembly in space.
His SkySats would be built on the International Space Station and released to form a constellation of satellites to provide low cost broadband Internet access worldwide.
A spacecraft typically undergoes extensive and expensive testing and hardening to ensure that it survives the violent launch from the ground and that it works when first turned on. Costs could be significantly reduced by assembling a satellite in orbit and validating that it works before releasing it. The satellite would then use a more gentle, low thrust on board propulsion system to reach its final orbit.
SkySat in orbit - Skycorp The company received considerable publicity for a demonstration project on the ISS in which a satellite would be built to carry an Apple Macintosh computer. Ground users would access the orbiting Internet server on the satellite using a wireless protocol based on Apple's AirPort technology. The company signed a contract with NASA in October of 2000 ( Skycorp Signs Agreement With NASA to Fly the First Webserver in Space - and it will be a Mac G4 - SpaceRef - Oct.2000 ).
Mr. Wingo has joined with Walt Anderson to create the company Orbital Recovery. The firm seeks to develop a new type of spacecraft that will rendezvous with aging communication satellites in geostationary orbit that are running out of station-keeping fuel. The Spacecraft Life Extension System, or SLES(tm), would attach itself to the comsat and use its own propulsion system to extend the useful life of the satellite for several more years.
Mr. Wingo previously worked at the University of Alabama in Huntsville where he was a manager of the small-satellite program and participated in the Lunar Prospector and SEDSAT 1 projects. He also worked with several microgravity experiments placed on shuttle flights.