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DARPA’s Robotic GEO Satellite Servicing Tech on Schedule for 2024 Launch

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A robotic system from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency designed to facilitate satellite servicing and inspection has completed all component-level tests and is on track to launch in 2024 for a demonstration mission in geosynchronous Earth orbit.

Engineers will finalize testing of the system’s flight hardware and software before the end of 2022 as part of DARPA’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites program and start integrating the robotic payload with the spacecraft bus in 2023, the agency said Tuesday.

DARPA said it expects on-orbit satellite servicing work to kick off in 2025.

In March 2020, the agency selected Northrop Grumman’s SpaceLogistics subsidiary to build the mission robotic vehicle bus and provide launch and operations support for the program.

Through public-private partnership, DARPA will help propel this technology from demonstration to operational capability,” said Ana Saplan, RSGS program manager at DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office.

Soon, instead of relegating satellites to space junk because of a broken part or lack of propellant, our robot mechanic will be making repair ‘service calls’ in space,” Saplan added.

DARPA is funding the Naval Research Laboratory to oversee development work on robotic servicing capabilities under the RSGS program.

The RSGS system will have two robotic arms, on-orbit checkout and calibration equipment, multiple robotic tools, cameras and lighting, equipment stowage ports and related avionics boxes.

According to DARPA, the first assembled arm is preparing to start thermal vacuum testing following the completion of vibration, functional and electromagnetic testing. The second arm is set to begin environmental testing at NRL this fall.