DARPA has selected Space Systems Loral (SSL), based in Palo Alto, CA, as its commercial partner for the agency’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program.

DARPA and SSL seek to develop technologies that would enable cooperative inspection and servicing of satellites in geosynchronous orbit (GEO), more than 20,000 miles above the Earth, and demonstrate those technologies on orbit. If successful, this research and demonstration effort would open the door to lowering the risks and costs of operating in GEO, said the space agency in a statement.

Under an agreement drafted jointly by DARPA and SSL, the two entities would share costs and responsibilities for the program. The RSGS public-private effort would be a first for DARPA in the space-servicing domain.

With RSGS, DARPA plans to develop a robotic module, including hardware and software, and provide technical expertise and a Government-funded launch. SSL would provide a spacecraft and would be responsible for integrating the module onto it to create a robotic servicing vehicle (RSV) and the RSV onto the launch vehicle, as well as providing a mission operations center and staff.

After a successful on-orbit demonstration of the RSV, SSL is expected to operate the vehicle and make cooperative servicing available to both military and commercial GEO satellite owners on a fee-for-service basis.

In parallel with the RSGS partnership, DARPA says it also intends to provide the government-developed space robotics technology to other interested U.S. space corporations. Qualified companies would be able to obtain and license the technology through cooperative research and development agreements.

[Image courtesy: DARPA]

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