The United States’ Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) plans to collect working components from failed satellites and robotically incorporate them into new ones while 35,000 kilometers (22,000 miles) above Earth.
These “Frankensatellites” would save on construction time and launch costs by harvesting larger working parts, like solar arrays and antennas, from defunct satellites still in orbit that would otherwise become space junk.
Named the Phoenix Program, the agency hopes for it to be effective from 2015, and is currently developing the technology with NASA and several companies.
“Today, when a communication satellite fails, it usually means the expensive prospect of having to launch a brand new replacement communication satellite,” reads the Phoenix Program webpage.
“The goal of the Phoenix Program is to develop and demonstrate technologies to cooperatively harvest and re-use valuable components from retired, nonworking satellites in Geostationary Earth Orbit and demonstrate the ability to create new space systems at greatly reduced cost.”
Through Phoenix, DARPA plans to create a new class of little ‘satlets,’ that can cheaply hitch a ride into space on commercial launches. The satlets would transfer the working parts from decommissioned satellites to a different orbit where a servicing spacecraft would create a new satellite using grasping mechanical arms and other tools controlled remotely from Earth.
The project aims to instate 24-hour communication capabilities for the military.
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 19 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.