Under its new Phoenix program, which recently completed Phase 1 testing, Darpa is totally rethinking how the U.S. builds and maintains its satellite fleet. The idea is for robots to assemble modular satellite architecture, called satlets, that weigh about 15 pounds and contain the satellite functionality such as the power supply, controls and sensors. All of this is delivered on the Payload Orbital Delivery (POD) system, which is meant to be easily and quickly deployable.
“Phase 1 not only showed the feasibility of our robotic tools and assembly techniques, but also validated the concept that we could build new satellites on orbit by physically aggregating satlets in space,” said David Barnhart, Darpa program manager, in a statement. “These successes could eventually lead to the revolutionary ability to create new, truly scalable space systems on orbit at a fraction of current costs.”
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