The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has issued a request for information (RFI) to industry partners for robotic satellite servicing missions in or near Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO).
The RFI seeks inputs in technical characteristics for a robotic servicer that would integrate DARPA-developed space robotics technologies into commercially available spacecraft designed for GEO within the next five years.
In addition to this, the RFI invites information on a public-private partnership that would make cooperative robotic servicing available to both military and commercial GEO satellite owners on a fee-for-service basis.
The partnership is expected to help develop near-term technical capabilities and significantly contribute towards the creation of a sustainable, commercially owned-and-operated space robotics enterprise.
DARPA programme manager Gordon Roesler said: "We’re asking the space community to think hard about how they want the future of space operations to look and how GEO robotics could help.
"Their insights are essential as we take the first concrete steps toward viable satellite-servicing capabilities in GEO.
"If we’re successful, we will significantly accelerate development of a capacity to maximise the utility of current space infrastructure and enhance the capabilities of future systems."
The agency anticipates that the jointly developed GEO robotic servicer would support the cooperative inspection of functional spacecraft that may have experienced anomalies while operating in GEO, cooperative correction of mechanical problems and also assist with orbit change manoeuvres.
The responders are expected to fall into one of three general categories, namely hardware/software developers, satellite servicing organisations and service clients, such as commercial communications satellite operators.
DARPA seeks information on early-opportunity collaborations or partnerships involving current industry-led servicing development efforts, aimed at enabling on-orbit refuelling and satellite life extension, including technology demonstration and maturation, data sharing, or testing.
The final date for submission of responses is 3 November.
Image: DARPA is seeking technical and business insights to enable robotic servicing missions in geostationary Earth orbit. Photo: courtesy of DARPA.