The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Northrop will jointly work to design a plug-and-play spacecraft bus to reduce cost and schedule during future space systems development.

As the main infrastructure, the spacecraft bus serves as the platform for carrying the payload and other mission-oriented equipment.

The spacecraft bus enables the payload components to be changed in and out, without a major spacecraft redesign.

Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems Advanced Concepts-Space and Directed Energy Systems vice-president Steve Hixson said the plug-and-play capability could change the way spacecraft are built by shortening industry’s response time to customers’ mission requirements.

“It will provide a standard interface for different payload components, much like a laptop computer that immediately recognises new hardware when it’s plugged in,” he said.

For conducting a six-month study, an initial $500,000 task order has been awarded to Northrop under the AFRL’s plug-and-play spacecraft technologies programme.