US: Space Systems Loral (SSL) has been chosen by DARPA to develop the capability to service and maintain spacecraft and other infrastructure in the geostationary arc. DARPA’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program is expected to be the foundation of a new business for SSL that will serve both commercial and government operators with repair, upgrade, relocation, and refueling of on-orbit assets.
“This will be SSL’s first spacecraft contract with the Department of Defense in recent years and it is the third time that we have been selected by the U.S. government for a major program in just two months, following our recent selections for NASA’s Restore-L and Psyche missions,” said Howard Lance, chief executive officer, SSL MDA Holdings. “It clearly demonstrates the success of our strategy to bring the benefits of our commercial business to a broader audience and to grow our business with U.S. government work.”
Based on its industry-leading platform, SSL is expected to provide a spacecraft to carry the robotic servicing payload and will manage integration and operation of the spacecraft. DARPA will contribute the robotics technology, expertise, and a government-provided launch. MDA will add a refueling capability to the RSGS program.
When launched, RSGS will have the capability to perform multiple servicing missions for both planned and urgent customer needs, including: high-resolution inspection; refueling; correction of mechanical anomalies; assistance with relocation and other orbital maneuvers; and installation of attachable payloads, enabling upgrades to existing assets. The company will market these services as a commercial business and is already in discussion with several key customers.
“RSGS’s capability will be marketed to both commercial and government satellite operators, providing them with unprecedented flexibility in fleet management and capital deployment,” said Steve Oldham, senior vice president, strategic business development, SSL. “Refueling provides a compelling value proposition and our sophisticated robotic capability will enable new on-orbit applications only available from RSGS.”
SSL is a US-based company, employing over 2300 people in Palo Alto, California where it has done business for 60 years. The work scope for the DARPA mission will be performed by SSL in its US facilities by its US staff. In a press release last year, SSL announced that it is working with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), through MDA US Systems, based in Pasadena California, to design and build robotic arm flight hardware for the RSGS program.