Through DARPA’s Phoenix Program, the agency said it wants contractors to develop a robotic system to “cooperatively harvest and re-use valuable components from” more than 1,300 retired, non-operating satellites.
DARPA estimates there is $300 billion worth of hardware in geostationary orbit today.
The agency said it is willing to spend up to $36 million for the operation. DARPA intends to create a new communications system for military personnel by re-using space apertures and antennas from the decommissioned satellites.
The agency said the Phoenix Program would like to send “nano satellites” into the geostationary region as a “ride along” with commercial satellites. Once in orbit, the nano satellites would robotically attach to the older satellites and remove and reuse the older satellites’ antennas and apertures.
“The traditional process of designing, developing, building and deploying space technologies is long and expensive,” DARPA said in its notice. “Through Phoenix, DARPA seeks to hasten the insertion of emerging technologies into space system development at much lower cost.”
DARPA hopes to demonstrate at least one successful reuse mission between 2015 and 2016. DARPA is accepting responses through Feb. 6.