Malin to build camera for DARPA and SSL’s satellite-servicing mission

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WASHINGTON – Malin Space Science Systems, of San Diego, California, has won a $10.9 million contract to build a camera for a government-funded robotic satellite-servicing mission.

The Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites program is an effort from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a platform that can perform on-orbit refueling, servicing, and repair missions.

Space Systems Loral, of Palo Alto, California, won a $15 million contract Feb. 9 to build a satellite bus that integrates DARPA’s servicing payload.

Now Malin has won the contract to provide the camera for that mission, an award issued Feb. 22 through the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, which is leading the payload development. Malin is well known for building cameras for NASA’s Mars missions.

Virginia-based Orbital ATK sued DARPA Feb. 7 in an attempt to stop the awarding of the main contract to SSL. According to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Orbital ATK argued that DARPA is wasting “hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to develop robotic satellite service technology for which DARPA has admitted there is no present U.S. government need.”

Orbital ATK, through its Space Logistics LLC subsidiary, is in the process of developing its own satellite servicing spacecraft, and already has a contract with telecommunications company Intelsat to service one of their spacecraft as early as 2018.

Citing the impending lawsuit, DARPA declined to discuss the awarding of the contract to Malin.

“I hope that the suit is resolved quickly and that we can continue our public presentations on this very exciting program that is so important to national security and the economic development of space,” Gordon Roesler, DARPA’s RSGS Program Manager, told SpaceNews.

SpaceNews could not reach Malin for comment.