DARPA’s Fractioned Satellite Could Revolutionize Industry

The System F6 space architecture replaces the traditional monolithic spacecraft with a wireless “virtual spacecraft” operating as a cluster of modules
The System F6 space architecture replaces the traditional monolithic spacecraft with a wireless “virtual spacecraft” operating as a cluster of modules

DARPA Sat Project Could Change Industry
Aviation Week

A fractionated satellite concept that replaces large satellites with clusters of wirelessly-linked modular spacecraft flying in loose formation has the potential to drive cultural change and reinvigorate a “mature” U.S. space industry, proponents say.


Design work is starting on phase 2 of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) System F6 program to demonstrate a satellite architecture based on fractionated modules. The work, being undertaken by Orbital Sciences, will lead to a planned flight demonstration in 2013, says DARPA tactical technology office program manager Paul Eremenko. “We just passed preliminary design review and are about to embark on detailed design, with critical design review about a year from now,” he says.

However the ramifications of the concept, which divides responsibility for various satellite functions between modules, could be as far-reaching to the industry on the ground as it might be to methods for operating in space, supporters say. “It could potentially revolutionize the entire way we operate and build spacecraft,” DARPA program manager Owen Brown says.

Read the full story.