DARPA’s Phoenix program aims to re-use dead satellites

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is aiming to create an autonomous robotic technology which uses a robotic arm with gripping and adhesion capabilities, controlling software and hyper-dexterous conformable robot modules.

But re-building and re-using a satellite that is 22,000 miles above the Earth in orbit is a challenging task, DARPA’s Phoenix program is created to re-purpose dead satellites while they are in orbit with the aid of advanced robotics.

Usually most of the satellites are not designed for modification or repair in orbit. In order to re-purpose a satellite, it must enable an architecture that allows for repairs while in orbit. The video below demonstrates the progress of Phoenix program since July 2012.

The artist’s simulation explains how the technology would be used for re-purposing a satellite with flight capable robotic arm with simulated space contact dynamics and robotic arm development. 

More technological challenges includes development of low cost software and hardware, test facilities with multiple degrees of freedom, ground support operations when Phoenix is in orbit and Phoenix launch and payload delivery.

Image & video credits: DARPA

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