DARPA Requests $50.5 Million for XS-1 for FY 2017

XS-1 vehicle (Credit: Boeing)
XS-1 vehicle (Credit: Boeing)

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is requesting $175.24 million for fiscal year (FY) 2017 for the development of space systems and technology, an increase of $48.5 million over current fiscal year spending.

The ambitious XS-1 program, which aims to develop fully-reusable launch vehicle system, once again tops DARPA’s space spending with proposed spending of $50.5 million. The program received $30 million for FY 2016.

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DARPA Proposes $127 Million in Space Spending

XS-1 entry (Credit: Northrop Grumman)
XS-1 entry (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has proposed spending $126.7 million on 10 space programs in FY 2016, including two initiatives designed to radically reduce the cost of launching payloads into space and a number of programs focused on in-orbit satellite servicing.

The budget is $53.2 million less than the $179.9 million will spend in the current fiscal year. While three programs would see major reductions in funding, DARPA would also start three new programs, including one focused on advanced propulsion technologies. (more…)

DARPA Issues RFI for Satellite Servicing Mission

Satellite servicer (Credit: DARPA)
Satellite servicer (Credit: DARPA)

DARPA has issued a request for information (RFI) from potential partners for a satellite servicing spacecraft it hopes to launch in the next five years.

This RFI seeks information in two primary areas: 1) the technical characteristics of spacecraft buses that industry might supply for integration with the DARPA-developed space robotics technologies and 2) the business arrangements that potential industry partners and users would require or prefer in order to enter into a partnership agreement with the Government to enable a commercially owned and operated space robotic servicing capability. DARPA envisions that a non-traditional acquisition instrument may be appropriate to establish this partnership.

DARPA/TTO anticipates that responders may fall into one of three general categories: 1) Hardware/Software Developers (e.g., bus providers and ground system developers); 2) Satellite Servicing Organizations; and 3) Service Clients, such as commercial communications satellite operators. Responses are welcomed from any of these groups and should include an identification of the group(s) in which the responder belongs. Responders need not feel obligated to respond to questions that are not pertinent to their organization’s core competencies.

Additionally, DARPA/TTO is aware of other servicing efforts currently being pursued in industry, particularly those aiming to enable on-orbit refueling and satellite life extension. DARPA welcomes information on possible early opportunity collaborations or partnerships involving such missions (for example, technology demonstration and maturation, data sharing, or testing).

The RFI says the effort builds on the work being done in DARPA’s Phoenix program, which is developing a range of new technologies to improve satellite operations.

UPDATE: DARPA has issued a full press release about the RFI, which is reproduced below.

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DARPA Moves Forward With Phoenix, ALASA and XS-1 Projects

Artist's conception of a nominal X-S1 vehicle. (Credit: DARPA)
Artist’s conception of a nominal X-S1 vehicle. (Credit: DARPA)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

DARPA’s proposed budget for FY 2015 calls for a significant increase in its Experimental Spaceplane One (XS-1) program and smaller boosts in the Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program and Project Phoenix, budget documents show.

The defense agency has requested $27 million for re-useable XS-1 space plane this year, a significant boost over the $10 million being spent for FY 2014. With the increase in funding, DARPA plans to conduct a preliminary design review (PDR) and select a single vendor for final design, fabrication and flight test in the coming fiscal year, which will start on Oct. 1.

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MDA Receives Additional Contract for Work on DARPA’s Project Phoenix

Phoenix satellite concept. (Credit: DARPA)
Phoenix satellite concept. (Credit: DARPA)

Richmond, BC (MDA PR) — MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (“MDA” or the “Company”) (TSX: MDA), a global communications and information company, announced today that it has been selected for additional robotics work for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Phoenix Program.

MDA has started work under the next phase of the Phoenix Program, with related contracts expected to total approximately US$10 million. The work will be carried out by both MDA and Space Systems/Loral (SSL).

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SS/L Awarded Phoenix Phase II Contract From DARPA

Phoenix satellite concept. (Credit: DARPA)
Phoenix satellite concept. (Credit: DARPA)

Palo Alto, CA (SS/L PR) – Space Systems/Loral (SSL), a leading provider commercial satellites today announced that it has been selected to develop designs, processes and business terms for carrying small science and technology missions to space on its geostationary (GEO) satellite platform.

Under phase two of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Phoenix program, SSL intends to detail the design and implementation processes for affordable delivery of small spacecraft beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The goal of the revolutionary Phoenix program is to enable cost-effective repurposing of serviceable space hardware that is already on orbit. The capability that SSL is developing for Phoenix is also expected to enable other future operational, science and technology space missions.

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A Video Update on DARPA’s Project Phoenix


Video Caption:
This video illustrates DARPA’s Phoenix program and some of the technical progress that has been made since it began in July 2012. As performers demonstrate the progress of their work in a lab, an artist’s simulation of a fully-realized Phoenix demonstration scenario runs in the background to help illustrate how the technology may be applied.

A Video Update on DARPA’s ZombieSat Program

Video Caption: This video illustrates DARPA’s Phoenix program and some of the technical progress that has been made since it began in July 2012. As performers demonstrate the progress of their work in a lab, an artist’s simulation of a fully-realized Phoenix demonstration scenario runs in the background to help illustrate how the technology may be applied.

MDA Gets Major Contract for DARPA’s Phoenix Program

Phoenix satellite concept. (Credit: DARPA)

Richmond, BC (MDA PR) – MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd., a provider of essential information solutions, announced today that it has been selected as a key participant to support the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Phoenix Program.

MDA will provide a variety of servicing technologies and capabilities to the program, under multiple contracts to DARPA and the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). These contracts will build on MDA’s world leading capabilities from its operations in both Canada and the U.S.

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Altius Space Machines Wins Contract to Develop Touch-to-Grasp Gripper with JPL

Louisville, CO September 19, 2012 (Altius PR) — Altius Space Machines is pleased to announce that it has been selected by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of Pasadena, CA. to provide engineering services as part of the DARPA Phoenix Program. The goal of the DARPA Phoenix Program is to develop and demonstrate technologies to cooperatively repurpose valuable components from retired, nonworking satellites and demonstrate the ability to create new space systems at greatly reduced cost.

Altius Space Machines will work with JPL to develop a Gecko Gripper Touch-to-Grasp tool incorporating JPL’s synthetic Gecko adhesive technology that mimics the ability of Gecko lizards to adhere to walls. This effort will leverage previous work done by Altius on uncooperative capture mechanisms.

About Altius Space Machines, Inc.

Altius Space Machines is a Louisville, Colorado based space technology company founded with the goal of reducing barriers to space commerce. Altius is currently developing rendezvous and docking solutions using its Sticky BoomTM non-cooperative capture technology, for space stations and propellant depots, manned spaceflight, satellite servicing, and other applications. For more information visit www.altius-space.com