DARPA Phoenix Satellite Servicing (Photo : DARPA)
It's been said that one man's trash is another man's treasure and the Pentagon's new project may prove just that. The Pentagon's Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is spending $180 million to scavenge defunct satellites in space for reusable parts.
The plan, which has never been attempted before, is to reduce spending of building new pieces, the Daily Mail reported. David Barnhart, DARPA program manager, told Fox News, "We're attempting to essentially increase the return on investment...and to try to find a way to really change the economics so that we can lower the cost" of military space missions.
According to Fox News, the program, called Phoenix, has already commenced. The research agency has awarded several contracts to companies developing new technologies and will continue receiving proposals from interested parties next month. The Daily Mail reported that the agency's first real test will come in 2016, when it launches a demonstration mission to give a decommissioned antenna a new wind.
DARPA has identified nearly 140 retired satellites from which to choose from for its first mission. According to DARPA's plan, a robotic mechanic will meet up with a defunct satellite and mine it for usable parts. The plan also calls for the launch of mini-satellites that would then meet up with the robotic mechanic and be assembled to create a new communication system.
According to the Daily Mail, DARPA will look to keep costs low by delivering the mini-satellites in available space on commercial rockets.