DARPA looks to revolutionize orbiting satellites with robotic refueling, repair and construction

Pamela Melroy, deputy director of the tactical technology office at DARPA, said such a robotic system could be used to refuel, repair and construct spacecraft at GEO, Cheryl Pellerin writes.

Pellerin reports GEO is a stable space environment that is approximately 36,000 kilometers away from Earth but has high levels of radiation that could be harmful to astronauts to carry out missions.

“We think this is a critical capability to building a transportation hub that allows transportation to and from Earth’s surface, from low Earth orbit to GEO, and even beyond Earth orbit,” Melroy said at DARPA’s three-day Wait, What? technology forum in St. Louis.

The former astronaut said the robotic arm has compliance and reflex controls intended to reduce the risk of collision-related space debris and is similar to the one used to construct the International Space Station, according to the report.

Other topics discussed at the event include prosthetic hands and other advances in the field of neuroscience, artificial intelligence systems and research into extraterrestrial life.

Nextbigfuture notes that the funding and capabilities developed here will mesh well with the NASA and Tethers Unlimited work to develop Spiderfab.

Pamela Melroy, deputy director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, explained in a video how low Earth orbit is booming with new commercial space activity—but another transformation awaits as geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO). Space robotics technology will help us build the infrastructure for vibrant, sustaining presence at GEO and beyond. She spoke at DARPA’s “Wait, What? A Future Technology Forum” on Sept. 10, 2015.

Spiderfab will need similar robotic capability

Spiderfab was presented at the Future in space Operations workshop.

• SpiderFab architecture combines robotic assembly with additive manufacturing techniques adapted for space
• On orbit fabrication enables order.of.magnitude improvements in packing efficiency and launch mass for large systems
>Higher Power, Resolution, Sensitivity and Bandwidth
• On.orbit fabrication with SpiderFab will enable NASA to accomplish 10X more science.per.dollar
• NIAC and SBIR work has validated feasibility of the key processes for SpiderFab
• They are preparing technology for flight demonstrations
• Affordable pathfinder demo can create new mission capability

SOURCES – DARPA, NASA, Youtube, Tethers Unlimited