Posts Tagged ‘vampire’

Hydrazine Vampires?

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Well, not exactly vampires. In keeping with the spirit of the season, Jamie Zawinski chose to call DARPA’s Phoenix Program “space vampires,” which was picked up by Boing Boing and spun up as “vampire satellite,” a la zombie satellite.

Communication satellites in geosynchronous orbit (GEO), approximately 22,000 miles above the earth, provide vital communication capabilities to warfighters. Today, when a communication satellite fails, it usually means the expensive prospect of having to launch a brand new replacement communication satellite. Many of the satellites which are obsolete or have failed still have usable antennas, solar arrays and other components which are expected to last much longer than the life of the satellite, but currently there is no way to re-use them.

The goal of the Phoenix program is to develop and demonstrate technologies to cooperatively harvest and re-use valuable components from retired, nonworking satellites in GEO and demonstrate the ability to create new space systems at greatly reduced cost. Phoenix seeks to demonstrate around-the-clock, globally persistent communication capability for warfighters more economically, by robotically removing and re-using GEO-based space apertures and antennas from de-commissioned satellites in the graveyard or disposal orbit.

I suspect we’ll get a response from the good people at ViviSat and MDA in Canada. Although they’re talking about on-orbit refueling, not scavenging for parts.