NovaWurks Awarded Contract for DARPA Phoenix Project

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Phoenix satellite concept. (Credit: DARPA)

Phoenix satellite concept. (Credit: DARPA)

DARPA has awarded a contract worth up to $42.6 million to NovaWurks of Los Alamitos, Calif., for work on the Phoenix project, an ambitious effort to recycle parts from dead satellites now in orbit.

The company’s Phoenix Phase 2 contract has a base value of $30.7 million and four options that if exercised would raise the total to $42.6 million, according to the contract award document. Last year, Novawurks received a $2.8 million Phase 1 contract.

The goal of the Phoenix project is to remove antennas and other useful parts from decommissioned spacecraft and attach them to small “satlets” to create new systems. NovaWurks was one of multiple companies funded under the first phase of the program to develop tools and capabilities for on-orbit satellite recycling.

“Phase 2 is notionally 26 months where all hardware components achieve at a minimum critical design level maturity and all flight hardware assembled, qualified and integrated into the Servicer/Tender prior to environmental test and ready for launch by the end of Phase 2,” according to DARPA’s program announcement.

The third phase would involve demonstrating the ability of the system in orbit. The launch and operational phase of the mission would nominally last six to 12 months, with “residual capability up to 48 months.”

DARPA says the Phoenix program also encompasses the following goals:

  • “Demonstrate a new concept in satellite design and manufacturing where the concepts of ‘cellularization’ and ‘morphological reconstruction’ are applied to a new satellite construct named a ‘Satlet';
  • “Demonstrate the ability to launch and dispense on-orbit small mass systems at a high tempo via commercial satellite hosted ride-alongs using a new construct named a payload orbital delivery system or PODs.”

  • therealdmt

    Weird. Of course now, companies will want you to pay for the parts you’re taking from their old satellites!

    That could be solved by taxing anyone who leaves a satellite in orbit after it goes out of service — unless they open it up for salvage.

  • Tonya

    It’s a fascinating program, but you really have to wonder how much of this is “dual use”. I’m sure the DoD has thought of many other ways to use these capabilities than building a frankensatellite. This is DARPA, not NASA.