ALASA’s Payloads Revealed: Smallsat Imaging Constellation

DARPA_logoWe now know what DARPA had in mind for payloads when it launched its Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program, which is aimed at being able to quickly launch 100 pound satellites into orbit for $1 million apiece.

Darpa’s goal is to show that a constellation of 24 satellites, each weighing less than 100 lb., can be launched into low Earth orbit (LEO) at a fraction of the cost of acquiring additional unmanned aircraft to provide the same imagery.

Raytheon has received the first contract under the Space Enabled Effects for Military Engagements (SeeMe) program. The $1.5 million contract is for the nine-month first phase to design a small imaging satellite. Darpa says other contracts will be awarded as well….

Under Phase 1 of SeeMe, Raytheon has received a nine-month, $1.5 million contract to design a small imaging satellite that can be produced and launched on demand, to provide 1-meter-resolution visible imagery on request direct to the handheld devices of individual soldiers.

Launched into LEO, each satellite will orbit the Earth every 90 min., with a constellation of 24 providing persistent coverage. By pressing the “SeeMe” button on a smartphone, a soldier on the ground will request imagery of his surroundings. A satellite will hear the request, reorient its sensor to the soldier’s location, take the image and transit it back within minutes.

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