DARPA wants vampire satellites to harvest parts from dead sats prior to decommissioning

A new DARPA solicition seeks "swarming robot space vampires" (in JWZ's evocative phrasing) to disassemble and harvest valuable components from decommissioned satellites before they're decommissioned, to use as spare parts for the stuff that's still functional:

More than $300 billion worth of satellites are estimated to be in the geosynchronous orbit (GEO—22,000 miles above the earth). Many of these satellites have been retired due to normal end of useful life, obsolescence or failure; yet many still have valuable components, such as antennas, that could last much longer than the life of the satellite. When satellites in GEO “retire,” they are put into a GEO disposal or “graveyard” orbit. That graveyard potentially holds tens to more than a hundred retired satellites that have components that could be repurposed – with the willing knowledge and sanction of the satellite’s owner. Today, DoD deploys new, replacement satellites at high cost—one of the primary drivers of the high cost is the launch costs, which is dependent on the weight and volume of antennas. The repurposing of existing, retired antennas from the graveyard represents a potential for significant cost savings.

(via JWZ)

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