The satellites, called SeeMe satellites, will provide personnel on the battlefield with near-instantaneous, zoomed-in views of enemy positions by beaming images to existing communication devices and eventually to smartphones.
With the system, military commanders could position a "constellation" of 24 satellites in low-Earth orbit. Each would weigh less than 25 pounds, be about 1 foot in diameter and capable of staying in orbit for 45 days.
"Basically, we're taking Raytheon's tactical missile approach and applying it to space," said SeeMe program lead Leonard Vance. "Traditionally, satellites are large, expensive and packed with functions and may take up to a decade to manufacture. Although Raytheon is not in the business of putting satellites into orbit, we are experts at high-volume manufacturing of missiles at relatively low cost."
"We're putting near-real time data where the warfighter needs it -- directly into their hands -- and providing them with vital, tactical intelligence they can control," added Tom Bussing, vice president of Advanced Missile Systems at Raytheon Missile Systems.
DARPA gave Raytheon the $1.5 million development award last December. Raytheon said it hopes to produce six SeeMe satellites for ground testing under phase two of the DARPA project.
Teamed with Raytheon for development work is the Sierra Nevada Corp., the University of Arizona and SRI International.