DARPA Makes First Award in Phoenix “ZombieSat” Program

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Phoenix satellite concept. (Credit: DARPA)

Los Alamitos CA (NovaWurks PR) — The DARPA Tactical Technology Office (TTO) has announced that NovaWurks, Inc. has been awarded a portion of the Phoenix Technologies contract to develop and demonstrate technologies to copperatively harvest and re-use valuable components from retired, non-operating satellites in geosynchronous orbit (GEO). The project will also demonstrate the ability to create new space systems at greatly reduced costs.

The $2.8M contract is the first of many such projects that NovaWurks will receive in this the companies first year of operation.

“We are so pleased to begin our first year with such a significant project. We were confident that with our unique process of affordably developing and delivering space systems, and with our extraordinary team of engineers we could out perform our competition,” said Talbot Jaeger, NovaWurks Chief Technologist and Founder.

Phoenix seeks to demonstrate around-the-clock, globally persistent communication capability for warfighters more economically, by robotically removing and re-using GEO-based space apertures and antennas from decommissioned satellites in the graveyard or disposal orbit. The Phoenix program envisions developing a new class of small ‘Satlets’, or nano satellites, which could be sent to the GEO region more economically as a “ride along” on a commercial satellite launch, and then attached to the antenna of a non-operational cooperating satellite robotically, essentially creating a new space system.

A payload orbital delivery system, or PODS, will also be designed to safely house the Satlets for transport aboard a commercial satellite launch as a hosted payload. A separate on-orbit ‘tender,’ or satellite servicing spacecraft is also expected to be built and launched into GEO. Once the tender arrives on-orbit, the PODS would then be released from its ride-along host and link up with the tender to become part of the satellite servicer’s ‘tool belt.’ The tender plans to be equipped with grasping mechanical arms for removing the Satlets and components from the PODS using unique robotic tools to be developed in the program.

The traditional process of designing, developing, building and deploying space technologies is long and expensive. Through Phoenix, DARPA and NovaWurks seek to hasten the insertion of emerging technologies into space system development at much lower cost.

EDITOR’S NOTE: DARPA expects to award a total of $36 million in contracts for this round of the Phoenix program.