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Space Technology

DARPA Working On Robotic Satellite Repair 16

jfruh writes: One of the aspects of the space age that sci-fi writers of the '50s couldn't predict was how much of our space activities are conducted by unmanned satellites rather than human beings. Now, DARPA wants to take that one step further, by building a robot satellite to fix other satellites. The initiative is being headed by former Space Shuttle commander Pamela Meloy. “Right now, we don’t build satellites to be serviced, but once we have that capability, then you can start seeing things like modular, serviceable satellites that become routine,” she says.
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DARPA Working On Robotic Satellite Repair

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  • Hubble (Score:5, Informative)

    by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Tuesday September 15, 2015 @12:49AM (#50523313) Homepage Journal

    Several of the Hubble repair missions at least got some preliminary work [space.com] done on figuring this all out (to prototype stage IIRC). Getting the cost down was the issue.

    • by Trepidity ( 597 )

      We also had a space shuttle then, which as long as it was going to be flying periodically anyway, was basically a sunk cost, so might as well use it to perform the repair. Now, with no space shuttle, robot repair doesn't have a lot of competitors.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Making such a notion less ideal, and as they bring on reusable 1st stages the costs will drop even more. The notion of repairing satellites only works while you are investing 200 million into a satellite because the launch costs 100 million, so you want something bullet proof that will last the 7-15 year life span you need. When launch costs hit 20 million investing 40-50 million on a satellite will seem like a substantial amount. Making the need for a robotic service mission less needed, but increasing the

    • Well, the jwst is a few billion dollars and will be parked n the other side of the moon. And it will be a while before launch costs are $20M.
    • it's important to remember that DARPA is military. while repairing satellites is interesting, this is more about hijacking, spying on and taking down other peoples' satellites. the falling cost of launching satellites is the reason they are making this!

      • Damaging satellites then becomes the crux of military offense/defense, and humanity fights itself in the skies, via robots. New satellite defense mechanisms, being necessary to prevent becoming jacked, start to add to the costs of weight, payload, basic capex, and so forth. The space race becomes vastly more complex. Oh joy. Oh funding.

      • Yes, it seems that this article is a public relations piece, to my eye, to leave the impression that we are the good guys. But, with other nations already deployed experimental weapons to destroy satellites, it stands to reason that the best funded military will be very active in this area as well. It's not clear to me that the Slashdot moderators who let this through are aware of this.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... priceless

  • The problem is getting a robot out to geosync for repairs and updates with new modules will cost as much as lifting a whole new bird. So unless NASA is going to start launching for free I see this as only an exercise in "if we can"

  • We spend all the money on a space station and we can't even shuttle around in LEO to fix satellites.

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.