The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has selected The
Boeing Company, Phantom Works, Seal Beach, Calif., team to perform
Phase II of the Orbital Express Advanced Technology Demonstration. The
team received a $99,144,499 modification to an other transaction for
prototypes agreement. The team will contribute an additional
$13,340,000 in cost-share. Team members include: Ball Aerospace and
Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo.; TRW Space and Electronics, Redondo
Beach, Calif.; MD Robotics, Brampton, Ontario, Canada; and Charles
Stark Draper Laboratory Inc., Cambridge, Mass.

During this 42-month phase, the Boeing team will finalize the design,
develop and fabricate a prototype servicing satellite, the Autonomous
Space Transport Robotic Operations satellite (ASTRO), and a surrogate
serviceable satellite, NextSat, and conduct an on-orbit demonstration
to validate the technical feasibility and mission utility of
autonomous, robotic on-orbit satellite servicing. A key element of
this demonstration is a non-proprietary satellite servicing interface
standard that can be implemented by any satellite manufacturer to
enable servicing.

DARPA strongly believes that routine, autonomous satellite servicing
will provide spacecraft with unprecedented freedom of maneuver,
allowing satellite coverage to be adjusted or optimized at will, or
enabling spacecraft to employ unpredictable maneuvers to counter
possible threats or adversary activity scheduling. It is also
anticipated that routine, autonomous, preplanned upgrades or
reconfiguration of spacecraft components will dramatically reduce
the “time to market” of new technology into operational satellites,
improving mission performance more efficiently than through block
replacements of satellite constellations. DARPA foresees that an
Orbital Express-derived satellite servicing architecture will usher
in a revolution in space operations, enabling new and enhanced
satellite capabilities supporting not only national security
missions, but civil and commercial space activities as well.

Maj. James Shoemaker, USAF, DARPA’s Orbital Express program manager,
explained, “Robotic on-orbit satellite servicing has been analyzed
many times, has always looked good on paper, but has always been
judged to have too high a technical risk and cost uncertainty to
convince a program manager to implement on-orbit servicing in an
operational satellite program. Orbital Express will demonstrate
the key enabling technologies for on-orbit servicing, and provide
real-world experience that will enable future operational systems
to make decisions based on facts rather than assumptions.”

Today’s second phase award follows a 14-month first phase, during
which contractor teams led by BAE Systems, Boeing, and Spectrum
Astro performed architecture and operations studies of serviceable
satellite constellations, developed conceptual designs for eventual
operational serviceable satellites, and completed preliminary
designs of technology demonstration versions of the Orbital Express
demonstration satellites.

NASA’s Space Launch Initiative (SLI) is partnering with DARPA in the
Orbital Express demonstration in order to reduce technical risks
associated with developing autonomous rendezvous capabilities. The
SLI Alternate Access to Station project, managed by the Marshall
Space Flight Center, is sponsoring this partnership. Leveraging work
done through the Orbital Express technology demonstration is one
step toward enabling potential commercial logistics missions to the
International Space Station. Cooperation between NASA and DARPA in
this demonstration benefits military, civil, and commercial space
sectors by sharing resources and technology.


Media with questions, please contact Jan Walker, (703) 696-2404, or . Contractors or military organizations, contact
Maj. Jim Shoemaker, (703) 696-2368, .