DARPA to partner with SSL on satellite servicing programme


The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will partner with Space Systems Loral (SSL) on the robotic servicing of geosynchronous satellites (RSGS) programme.

DARPA has selected SSL despite lawsuit filed by Orbital ATK to block the agency from awarding the satellite servicing contract to SSL, according to media sources.

SSL has been contracted to service and maintain spacecraft and other infrastructure in the geostationary arc.

SSL MDA Holdings CEO Howard Lance said: "This will be SSL's first spacecraft contract with the Department of Defense in recent years and it is the third time that we have been selected by the US Government for a major programme in just two months, following our recent selections for Nasa's Restore-L and Psyche missions.

"It clearly demonstrates the success of our strategy to bring the benefits of our commercial business to a broader audience and to grow our business with US Government work."

SSL has agreed to provide DARPA with a spacecraft to carry the robotic servicing payload and will take responsibility to manage integration and operation of the spacecraft. The company will also add a refuelling capability to the RSGS programme

Under the agreed terms, DARPA will provide robotics technology and launch of the spacecraft.

"Refuelling provides a compelling value proposition and our sophisticated robotic capability will enable new on-orbit applications only available from RSGS."

SSL strategic business development senior vice-president Steve Oldham said: "RSGS's capability will be marketed to both commercial and government satellite operators, providing them with unprecedented flexibility in fleet management and capital deployment.

"Refuelling provides a compelling value proposition and our sophisticated robotic capability will enable new on-orbit applications only available from RSGS."

The RSGS seeks to perform multiple servicing missions for both planned and urgent customer needs, including high-resolution inspection; refuelling; correction of mechanical anomalies; assistance with relocation and other orbital manoeuvres; and installation of attachable payloads, enabling upgrades to existing assets.


Image: A satellite in space. Photo: courtesy of CNW Group / MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.