DARPA Awards F6 Contracts
[Satellite Today – 3-4-08] The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded funding to four contractor teams for the first phase of the Future, Fast, Flexible, Fractionated, Free-Flying Spacecraft United by Information Exchange (System F6) space technology and demonstration program, DARPA announced Feb. 26.
The four teams, led by Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co., Northrop Grumman Space and Mission Systems Corp. and Orbital Sciences Corp., have been awarded more than $38.5 million combined.
The program intends to demonstrate that a traditional, large, monolithic satellite can be replaced by a group of smaller, individually launched, wirelessly networked and cluster-flown spacecraft modules. Each “fractionated” module can contribute a unique capability to the rest of the network such as computing, ground communications or payload functionality. The ultimate goal of the program is to launch a fractionated spacecraft system and demonstrate it in orbit in about four years.
“We see many benefits to fractionation,” DARPA F6 Program Manager Owen Brown said in a statement. “Fractionation provides the flexibility to launch individual payloads when they are ready so that an otherwise complex, multi-payload program isn’t delayed. It diversifies risk during launch by not putting all of our eggs into one basket, greatly improves robustness to attack, and provides the capability to rapidly replace a failed component without needing complex in-orbit servicing. And we have the potential to take advantage of Moore’s law by frequently upgrading on-orbit computing resources using relatively small modules, as opposed to waiting decades until we replace the entire spacecraft. The F6 architecture will demonstrate an approach that will enable us to do these types of crucial space activities in the future and maybe even some incredible things we haven’t even begun to consider.”