US: DARPA selects SpaceLogistics for Robotic Servicing Mission of Geosynchronous Satellites
The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has selected SpaceLogistics LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Corporation, as commercial partner for the agency’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program.
The objectives of the program include enhanced capabilities such as in-orbit repair, augmentation, assembly, detailed inspection and relocation of client satellites.
The mission will feature the first-ever commercial robotic servicing spacecraft. It aims to expand the market for satellite servicing of both commercial and government client satellites with advanced robotics technology.
DARPA will provide the robotics payload for the Space Logistics Mission Robotic Vehicle. This payload consists of two dexterous robotic manipulator arms, along with several tools and sensors. SpaceLogistics will provide its Mission Robotic Vehicle bus leveraging technologies developed for the industry’s first- ever satellite servicing vehicle, the Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV).
MEV-1 launched in October 2019 and completed the first docking in geosynchronous orbit with an Intelsat satellite on February 25.
Tom Wilson, president, SpaceLogistics, said, “The new robotics technology on this mission advances our vision to build a fleet of satellite servicing vehicles that provide customers with a variety of options to select the type of life-extension or in-orbit repairs they need.”
Defence Insight Analysis
Northrop Grumman is also developing expanded life extension services for the mission that include Mission Extension Pods. The new pods augment the propulsion system of ageing satellites and provide six years of orbital life extension.
The Mission Robotic Vehicle is designed to install these augmentation platforms on existing in-orbit commercial and government client satellites to extend their mission lives.