[amsat-bb] An interesting DARPA project has been announced for satellites

Lowell White whiteld at usa.net
Fri Oct 21 05:34:40 PDT 2011

I am posting this information with hopes that the opportunity it may represent
could be of help to AMSAT members as well as possibly to AMSAT at large. I'm
not posting it to launch endless debates but to raise hopes that there is
indeed a need for folks with our (collective) types of skills and potential to
advance the technology (i.e. the state of the art) for Amateur purposes. Since
commercial and/or government involvement (funding, etc) is often needed for
new technologies to flourish prior to the technology designs, and even 'scraps
and leftovers' being re-purposed for Amateur use, it seemed germane. 

Kind regards & 73, 



DARPA... Seeking Interested Performers For Phoenix Program... 

[SatNews] Innovators are now being sought for DARPA satellite servicing
technology programs. 

More than $300 billion worth of satellites are estimated to be in the
geosynchronous orbit (GEO—22,000 miles above the Earth). Many of these
satellites have been retired due to normal end of useful life, obsolescence or
failure; yet many still have valuable components, such as antennas, that could
last much longer than the life of the satellite. When satellites in GEO
“retire,” they are put into a GEO disposal or “graveyard” orbit. That
graveyard potentially holds tens to more than a hundred retired satellites
that have components that could be repurposed – with the willing knowledge
and sanction of the satellite’s owner. Today, DoD deploys new, replacement
satellites at high cost—one of the primary drivers of the high cost is the
launch costs, which is dependent on the weight and volume of antennas. The
repurposing of existing, retired antennas from the graveyard represents a
potential for significant cost savings. 

DARPA’s Phoenix program seeks to develop technologies to cooperatively
harvest and re-use valuable components from  retired, nonworking satellites in
GEO and demonstrate the ability to create new space systems at greatly reduced
cost. “If this program is successful, space debris becomes space
resource,” said DARPA Director, Regina E. Dugan. This concept will require
diverse expertise from the international and nontraditional space communities.
For example, today’s ground-based robotics systems allow surgeons to perform
telesurgery on a patient thousands of miles away, and advanced remote imaging
systems used for offshore drilling view the ocean floor thousands of feet
underwater. These types of capabilities, if re-engineered for zero gravity,
high-vacuum and harsh radiation, could be used in space to allow the
repurposing of valuable antennas from retired GEO satellites. 

 “Satellites in GEO are not designed to be disassembled or repaired, so
it’s not a matter of simply removing some nuts and bolts,” said David
Barnhart, DARPA program manager. “This requires new remote imaging and
robotics technology and special tools to grip, cut, and modify complex
systems, since existing joints are usually molded or welded. Another challenge
is developing new remote operating procedures to hold two parts together so a
third robotic ‘hand’ can join them with a third part, such as a fastener,
all in zero gravity. For a person operating such robotics, the complexity is
similar to trying to assemble via remote control multiple Legos at the same
time while looking through a telescope.” 

 To optimally use those repurposed assets, the Phoenix program will develop
low-cost, scalable electronics and structural modules that would allow
localized control and communication with each other and a master satellite,
ala DARPA’s System F6, that together harnesses the repurposed antennas.
Phoenix specifically seeks technologies for developing a new class of small
“satlets,” or nanosatellites, which can be sent more economically to the
GEO region through existing ride-along services with commercial satellite
launches and then robotically attached to the antenna of a nonfunctional
cooperating satellite to essentially create a new space system. The
nanosatellites may leverage the technologies, infrastructure, protocols and
architecture developed within the ongoing System F6 program. 

 Technical expertise is sought to design a payload orbital delivery system, or
PODS, to safely house the satlets when they are launched aboard a commercial
satellite. A separate on-orbit “tender,” or satellite servicing station,
is planned to be launched into GEO. Once the tender arrives on-orbit, the PODS
would be released from its ride-along host and linked with the tender to
become part of the satellite servicing station’s “tool belt.” The tender
plans to be equipped with grasping mechanical arms and remote vision systems
to remove components and satlets from the PODS using unique space tools to be
developed in the program. 

Critical to the success of the Phoenix program is active participation from
both U.S. and international communities involved in vital technical areas such
-Radiation tolerant microelectronics and memory storage
-Distributed wireless mobile platform solutions for ad hoc connectivity and
-Industrial electronic control systems
-Terrestrial microminiature guidance and control measurement units
-Industrial robotics end effectors and tool changeout mechanisms and
-Computer-assisted medical robotics microsurgical telepresence, tools and
-Remote underwater imaging/vision technologies used in the offshore oil and
gas drilling industry
-Terrestrial manufacturing of high volume microelectronics and computer data
-Terrestrial thermal management design technology of electronic devices and
-Low-cost industrial manufacturing of high-volume sheet metal and other
structural materials
-Additive manufacturing on various structural materials

 DARPA will host two upcoming industry days in November 2011 for interested

Source: http://www.satnews.com/cgi-bin/story.cgi


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