Satellite Pit Stop


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Defense Tech has previously made light of space debris falling back to earth (see "Native Americans Solve Chinese Space Junk Problem" post from back in March), but of course this potential phenomenon is not funny. (We know that now.)

DARPA - an organization that has never found the issue even remotely humorous - is doing something to keep the sky from falling. Some months ago they, in partnership with Boeing and other subcontractors, launched "Orbital Express," a project designed to demonstrate the feasibility of refueling and upgrading satellites in space (rather than waiting to upgrade them once they return to earth as shards of burning metal).

According to DARPA's website "the goal of the Orbital Express Space Operations Architecture program is to validate the technical feasibility of robotic, autonomous onorbit refueling and reconfiguration of satellites to support a broad range of future U.S. national security and commercial space programs. Refueling satellites will enable frequent maneuver to improve coverage, change arrival times to counter denial and deception and improve survivability, as well as extend satellite lifetime. Electronics upgrades on-orbit can provide regular performance improvements and dramatically reduce the time to deploy new technology on-orbit."

The first robotic transfer of propellant and a battery to a client satellite happened on July 2.

-- Ward

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