Friday, September 12, 2014

DARPA to Test Satellite Repair Droids in Orbit

The United States military's high-technology branch is hoping to test out on-orbit satellite servicing in orbit in the next five years.

Satellites that sit in geostationary orbit, which is about 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above the Earth, are traditionally used for communications and surveillance because the length of the orbit is approximately the same as Earth's day.

This allows a satellite to gaze at the same area of Earth around the clock.

This location is too far away for conventional satellite servicing mission concepts, however, and at the end of the satellite's lifespan it needs to be moved away from that orbital slot to make way for new missions.

As such, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is seeking some sort of a public-private partnership for satellite servicing.

The U.S. military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is considering adding DARPA-developed space robotic technology to commercial spacecraft to create a robotic service droid capable of repairing satellites in geostationary orbits 22,000 miles above Earth. 

 Credit: Defense Advanced Research Agency

The partnership would be for both commercial and military owners with satellites in that space, possibly saving money since new satellites wouldn't need to be launched as often.

"The ability to safely and cooperatively interact with satellites in GEO [geostationary orbit] would immediately revolutionize military and commercial space operations alike, lowering satellite construction and deployment costs and improving satellite lifespan, resilience and reliability," DARPA officials wrote in a statement.

DARPA has put out a request for information looking for "technical, security and business insights" to make this service possible.

The agency is seeking technical information on a possible "robotic servicer" that would make use of previously developed DARPA space robotics.

Ideally, the robot would be able to fix mechanical problems like antenna issues, or inspect spacecraft that had operational problems, providing more information to controllers on Earth.

The servicer might even be able to move satellites into other orbits.

Responses to the request for information are due by Nov. 3. To learn more abotu DARPA's satellite servicing project requirements, read the full request for information.

“We’re asking the space community to think hard about how they want the future of space operations to look and how GEO robotics could help,” said Gordon Roesler, DARPA program manager.

“Their insights are essential as we take the first concrete steps toward viable satellite-servicing capabilities in GEO."

"If we’re successful, we will significantly accelerate development of a capacity to maximize the utility of current space infrastructure and enhance the capabilities of future systems.”

No comments:

Post a Comment