Project Phoenix, a DARPA initiative to recycle space debris
One of the consequences of space exploration and launch satellites into space is that our planet is surrounded by what is known as space junk, ie useless objects orbiting Earth. Among the debris we find remains of rockets, dust, paint chips and old satellites (such as Telstar 1 ). If we remember the history of Telstar 1, the first communications Satellite in history, this satellite was damaged on 21 February 1963 and was abandoned in space by not repaired, something that has happened with many other satellites for reasons of cost not been reached despite remaining repair parts damaged or not functional. With the idea of saving costs (avoiding repair missions) and recycle some of the debris, DARPA , the research agency of the Department of Defense United States, today announced the launch of the Phoenix Project with the idea of repair satellites “field” reusing parts of others.
With this project, DARPA wants to avoid the organization of repair missions when a satellite fails precisely because it is not cheap and missions are not usually something planned budget. Given that many of the abandoned satellites have their antennas and solar panels intact and they still maintain their geostationary orbit (at 35,000 miles from Earth), DARPA wants to reuse these “storage components” to repair satellites in their orbit without sending astronauts.
How to repair a satellite remote reusing parts of another? The answer to DARPA is simple: by using small satellites robot that could be coupled in commercial satellites to be used if necessary. By coupling these nano-satellites to other commercial satellites, the costs of deployment of this system would be very small and, from there, if a fault is detected, the robot (controlled from Earth) and remove the faulty components would trap the Replacement of a broken satellite that orbited another fence and then change its orbit to the satellite failed to return and rebuild or repair.
The program, precisely, will focus on the design of this technology, the design of the robotic arms and tools for desoldering and soldering the components and the control system needed to guide the operation from a ground control. The idea is that this project, whose first phase ends in 2015, to show that it is possible to “recycle” space and for that entities such as NASA, Intelsat, Altius Space Machines, Honeybee Robotics Space Altius Machines or participate in the project and some universities and research centers in the United States.
In addition, the project will also focus on the development of integrated circuits and radiation tolerant memory (in order to reuse components), develop robot arms with interchangeable tools, control systems similar to the robotic surgery and vision to “move” virtually engineers to earth.