Intelsat General awarded DARPA contract on project aimed at servicing satellites in orbit

by Staff Reporter | August 17th, 2012

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has kicked off an initiative to harvest and re-use valuable components from dead satellites in geosynchronous orbit (GEO)

Intelsat General Corporation, an indirect, wholly-owned subsidiary of Intelsat S.A., has been awarded a contract by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as part of a larger project to study how satellites can be serviced in orbit.

The Phoenix programme is designed to develop and demonstrate technologies to cooperatively harvest and re-use valuable components from retired, non-working satellites in geosynchronous orbit.

Intelsat General plans to study the broad implications of using commercial satellites to carry new technology hardware segments to assist in repurposing components, known as “satlets,” into space as hosted payloads. The company intends to investigate the safety, legal, regulatory, and insurance issues associated with the hosted payload deployment mission. Intelsat General is one of several contractors taking part in the DARPA demonstration project.

“The Phoenix programme could result in a new approach to how satellites are built, once the ability to upgrade in-orbit satellites with new electronics and technologies is deemed feasible,” said Kay Sears, President of Intelsat General. “We have been interested in satellite servicing for some time. This project demonstrates a further commitment by the U.S. government to an approach that re-uses high-value components in orbit.”

Intelsat General plans to work with the team developing the hosted payload interface and the payload orbital delivery system (PODS) that will carry the satlets safely to investigate whether a non-proprietary, commercial “hardware hosting” solution is technically possible; can be legally and policy enabled; and is financially viable. The company intends to report to DARPA on the operational issues related to deploying and locating the PODS once they are released from the host spacecraft.


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