DARPA Seeks to Fly Experimental Satellite on Indian PSLV Booster

PSLV C38 mission launches (Credit: ISRO)

Frustrated over delays with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster, DARPA is considering launching an innovative experimental satellite on India’s PSLV rocket, SpaceNews reports.

Jeremy Palmer, program manager for DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, told attendees at the Milsatcom USA conference that officials are hoping to launch the eXperiment for Cellular Integration Technology (eXCITe) satellite during the second half of fiscal year 2018, i.e., from April to September 2018.

The eXCITe spacecraft consists of 14 small satlets aggregated together into a single payload weighing 155 kg. The satlets, which are supplied by NovaWurks, have autonomous capabilities and are capable of operating individually or being aggregated into larger, more capable satellites.

eXCITe was originally scheduled to fly as a secondary payload aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9. It would have been deployed from a Spaceflight-supplied Sherpa payload dispenser, which aggregates smaller secondary payloads.

However, repeated slips in SpaceX’s launch schedule required Spaceflight to seek alternative rides to space for payloads that would have been deployed by the Sherpa dispenser.

DARPA would need a U.S. government waiver to fly eXCITe on the PSLV. The government has been granting an increasing number of waivers to American satellite manufacturers who say there is a shortage of domestic launch opportunities.

U.S. launch companies have pushed back agains the waivers, saying India’s PSLV and GSLV launchers are subsidized by the nation’s space agency, ISRO. A number of U.S. companies are developing launch vehicles specifically aimed at the small satellite market, but none has yet made a succesful flight to orbit.



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…)

Spaceflight Inc. to Launch NovaWurk’s Innovative Satlet for DARPA

SHERPA (Credit: Spaceflight Inc.)
SHERPA (Spaceflight Inc.)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

DARPA’s ambitious Phoenix program, which aims to transform the way satellites are built and operated, will get an orbital test next year in a satellite launch that will combine the efforts of two up and coming NewSpace companies.

NovaWurks, of Los Alaimos, Calif., has signed an agreement with Spaceflight Inc., of Seattle, to launch the eXCITe spacecraft during the third quarter of 2015. NovaWurks’ tiny “satlet” will be part of approximately 2,650 lbs. (1,200 kg.) of other rideshare spacecraft that will aboard Spaceflight’s SHERPA in-space transportation platform.


NovaWurks Awarded Contract for DARPA Phoenix Project

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.