Military seeks ideas on robotic space services capabilities

DARPA hopes to demonstrate capabilities developed within the next five years.
By Richard Tomkins  |  Sept. 4, 2014 at 2:07 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. military is looking for space robotic services for critical satellites in geostationary Earth orbit.

Satellites currently in geostationary orbit -- 22,000 miles above the Earth -- are designed to operate without upgrades or repairs for their lifespan, meaning they are larger in size, more complex and more costly than satellites in low Earth orbit.

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency aims to rectify the situation through a public-private partnership for robotics space servicing capabilities and has has issued a Request for Information to obtain technical, security and business insights.

"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."

DARPA hopes to demonstrate capabilities developed within the next five years.

DARPA said input is sought on the technical characteristics for a robotic servicer that would integrate DARPA-developed space robotics technologies into commercially available spacecraft designed for GEO.

Included would be ideas on cooperative inspection of functional spacecraft that may have experienced anomalies while in geostationary orbit, such as solar array and antenna deployment malfunctions.

Complete details of the RFI can be obtained at the General Services Administration's Federal Business Opportunities website.

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