DARPA will create robots to scavenge parts from satellites
DARPA has a project to reuse satellite antennas, apertures, and other components from decommissioned satellites. They seek to use still-good components from dead satellites parked in high-Earth orbit for building new satellites robotically while in orbit to reduce the costs of replacing failed satellites.
Phoenix seeks to demonstrate around-the-clock, globally persistent communication capability for warfighters more economically by robotically removing and re-using GEO-based space apertures and antennas from de-commissioned satellites in the graveyard or disposal orbit.
DARPA is asking NovaWurks to develop an integrated proximity awareness system (IPAS), rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) technology suite, synergistic number of degrees of freedom (N-DOF) test facility support, virtual ground station operations, and payload orbital delivery system (PODS)-hosted launch.
The Phoenix program envisions developing a new class of very small ‘satlets,’ similar to nano satellites, which could be sent to the GEO region more economically as a “ride along” on a commercial satellite launch, and then attached to the antenna of a non-functional cooperating satellite robotically, essentially creating a new space system. A payload orbital delivery system, or PODS, will also be designed to safely house the satlets for transport aboard a commercial satellite launch.
A separate on-orbit ‘tender,’ or satellite servicing satellite is also expected to be built and launched into GEO. Once the tender arrives on orbit, the PODS would then be released from its ride-along host and link up with the tender to become part of the satellite servicing station’s ‘tool belt.’ The tender plans to be equipped with grasping mechanical arms for removing the satlets and components from the PODS using unique space tools to be developed in the program.