DARPA selects SSL for RSGS programme
DARPA has selected Space Systems Loral (SSL) as its commercial partner for its Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) programme, as it looks to lower the risks and costs of operating in geosynchronous orbit (GEO), a harsh and difficult-to-access domain that is critically important for both military and civilian space assets.
The programme aims to develop robotic technologies for the inspection and servicing of satellites in GEO more than 20,000 miles above the earth's surface; and demonstrate these technologies in orbit.
Under a public-private partnership, DARPA and SSL will share costs and responsibilities for the programme.
The plan is to develop a robotic module, including hardware and software, and provide technical expertise and a government-funded launch. SSL will provide the spacecraft and be responsible for integrating the module onto it to creating a robotic servicing vehicle (RSV), integrating the RSV onto the launch vehicle, and providing a mission operations centre and staff.
If the on-orbit demonstration should prove successful, SSL will operate the vehicle and make cooperative servicing available to both military and commercial GEO satellite owners on a fee-for-service basis.
RSGS will enable capabilities including high-resolution inspection; correction of various mechanical anomalies, such as solar array and antenna deployment malfunctions; assistance with relocation and other orbital manoeuvres; installation of attachable payloads, enabling upgrades or entirely new capabilities for existing assets; and refuelling.
As the RSGS public-private effort would be a first for DARPA in the space-servicing domain, the agency's selection of SSL and the pending agreement have been submitted for review by the Department of Defense's Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.
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