Senate Bill Would Kill DARPA’s SeeMe Project

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee wants to end a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) effort to study a constellation of low-cost imaging satellites able to deliver data to hand-held devices in near-real time.

DARPA requested $10.5 million for 2014 for the Space Enabled Effects for Military Engagements (SeeMe) project. But in its version of the 2014 defense spending bill, the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended “program termination.”

The House Appropriations Committee did not mention the SeeMe program in its version of the spending bill.

According to budget documents, DARPA in 2014 hopes to complete testing of six prototype SeeMe satellites to verify that they could be built within 90 days with no prepurchased parts. The agency also expected to complete demonstrations of prototype hardware and software for the satellites and hand-held data reception devices.

In January, Millennium Space Systems of Torrance, Calif., announced it had won a $1.91 million contract to develop designs and production planning for six prototype and 24 operational SeeMe satellites. Company officials did not respond to a request for comment on the Senate’s recommendation to kill the project.

In a broad agency announcement released May 9, DARPA said it intended to award multiple study contracts, with a combined value not to exceed $45 million, for the SeeMe program. Each satellite was expected to cost less than $500,000. Bids were due in June.

DARPA confirmed earlier this year that it was canceling another project designed to test the ability of multiple satellites to perform the function of a single, larger spacecraft. The agency had invested nearly $200 million in the Future, Fast, Flexible, Fractionated Free-flying Spacecraft United by Information Exchange mission but ultimately decided that the mission was not worth continuing.

 

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