U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) made the announcement that SpaceLogistics LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) is its commercial partner for the agency’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program. This public-private partnership is now pioneering the robotic servicing of satellites.
The groundbreaking mission will feature the first-ever commercial robotic servicing spacecraft and aims to expand the market for satellite servicing of both commercial and government client satellites with advanced robotics technology. The program objectives include enhanced capabilities such as in-orbit repair, augmentation, assembly, detailed inspection and relocation of client satellites.
Under the agreement, DARPA will provide the robotics payload for the Space Logistics Mission Robotic Vehicle. This payload, developed and integrated by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, consists of two dexterous robotic manipulator arms, along with several tools and sensors. SpaceLogistics will provide its Mission Robotic Vehicle bus leveraging technologies developed for the industry’s first- ever satellite servicing vehicle, the Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV).
MEV-1, designed and built by Northrop Grumman, launched in October 2019 and successfully completed the first docking in geosynchronous orbit with an Intelsat satellite on February 25. Northrop Grumman will also channel its deep expertise in spacecraft development and on-orbit servicing to lead the system level design, integration, testing, launch and mission operations over the life of the satellite.
Tom Wilson, president, SpaceLogistics LLC. said that their selection as DARPA’s commercial partner expands their leadership in space logistics. The new robotics technology on this mission advances their vision to build a fleet of satellite servicing vehicles that provide customers with a variety of options to select the type of life-extension or in-orbit repairs they need.
In addition to the Mission Robotic Vehicle for SpaceLogistics, Northrop Grumman is developing expanded life extension services for the mission that include Mission Extension Pods. The new pods augment the propulsion system of aging satellites and provide six years of orbital life extension. The Mission Robotic Vehicle will be used to install these augmentation platforms on existing in-orbit commercial and government client satellites to extend their mission lives.