The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and Space Systems Loral have drafted a partnership agreement to develop technologies that would facilitate autonomous repair and maintenance of satellites in geosynchronous orbit.
The RSGS public-private partnership is subject to review by the Defense Department's undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics since the project would be a first of its kind at the agency.
DARPA seeks to create robotic hardware and software while SSL aims to build a space vehicle and integrate a robotic module from the agency with the spacecraft in an effort to produce a robotic servicing vehicle for military and commercial applications.
Under the agreement, the agency will also offer technical and government-funded launch services to the project.
Brad Tousley, director of DARPA's tactical technology office, said the RSGS program will work to demonstrate a set of technologies that are not currently available nor projected to be commercially sold in the near term.
The agency added it already built the robotic arms for the project and plans to license the space-based technology to other interested U.S. companies via cooperative research-and-development agreements.
DARPA has determined that a public-private partnership is the “best approach” to acquire the RSGS system that the agency believes can aid government and the commercial satellite programs.
SSL would manage operation of the vehicle and offer cooperative servicing on a fee-for-service basis to military and commercial GEO satellite operators if the company successfully demonstrates the vehicle in space.