DARPA picks SSL for its servicing satellite contract – and it can be used to demolish satellites as well

In spite of a legal bid by Orbital ATK to stop the deal, the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has announced that it has awarded SSL (formerly Space Systems/Loral) a US$15 million contract to provide the bus with a refuelling capability for its first Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) mission in 2021 at the earliest. The launch and rendezvous technology including a grappling robot arm system are to be supplied by DARPA.

Comment by David Todd: Critics of the mission, including Orbital ATK, have openly questioned why DARPA is doing this given that civilian and commercial organisations are already working on the technology. While robotic servicing missions are being studied by NASA (below), the fact that DARPA is involved indicates a possible dual use. Yes – it can be used to refuel or replace parts (antennas etc) – a civilian application. But such a spacecraft can also be used to take spacecraft apart – a military use.

NASA on-orbit repair/servicing satellite concept The question however remains: is it economic to do? Courtesy: NASA

NASA on-orbit repair/servicing satellite concept The question however remains: is it economic to do? Courtesy: NASA

 

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