The International Space Station was the first big construction project in space.
The US government wants to see more of the expensive hardware in space maintained and even built there, rather than back on Earth.
Space activities add billions to the US economy, but the inability to build in orbit limits that contribution. Now, new technologies developed by the US government and private firms are showing what it will take to begin servicing, assembling, and even manufacturing in space. Experts say it is the path toward orbiting factories and long-term habitation on the Moon.
The first step will be rehabbing aging satellites rather than replacing them. NASA is plotting its first mission to refuel a spacecraft. The aerospace firm Northrop Grumman has already flown two missions to extend the life of satellites, and will soon sell a space robot designed to do the same.
The White House released a national strategy for developing these technologies in April, led by space policy advisor Ezinne Uzo-Okoro, an expert in robotic assembly who previously worked for NASA.