Recycling goes space age
The Phoenix program, launched this month, aims to robotically remove valuable parts from decommissioned satellites still in geosynchronous orbit, some 22,000 miles above Earth. Here’s what DARPA envisions: a new class of nano satellites–adorably named “satlets”–could hitch a ride to orbit alongside commercial satellites. At the same time, a separate satellite-servicing satellite, decked out with remote vision and mechanical arms, could be launched into space. Once in orbit, the satlets could link up with the servicing satellite to become what part of what DARPA calls a “tool belt” for fixing up satellites.
Satellite antennas are large and require a lot of fuel to send up to space, so the servicing satellite could grab old (but functioning) antennas from dead satellites and attach them to the antenna-less satlets, generating a cheaper satellite pieced together from space junk and new parts.
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