Firmamentum scores DARPA contract to investigate in-space manufacture of comms satellite

BOTHELL, Wash. Space-construction firm Firmamentum has announced that it has signed a contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to collaborate on a system that would use in-space manufacturing and robotic assembly processes to construct a small satellite while in orbit.

The terms of the contract call for Firmamentum -- a division of aerospace company Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) -- to combine its technologies for in-space recycling, , and to create a framework able to launch a secondary payload on an evolved expendable launch vehicle (EELV) rocket.

Under the /Firmamentum blueprint, the system would recycle a structural element of the EELV by converting part of it into a very large and accurate antenna reflector. The effort would then attach the antenna to an array of TUI's SWIFT software defined radios (SDRs) to create a small satellite able to deliver up to 12 GB/s of data to K-band very small aperture terminals (VSATs) on the ground. All of the recycling and reassembly would occur in space.

Dr. Rob Hoyt, the CEO of TUI/Firmamentum, said of the effort: "In the near term, this technology would enable the Defense Department to address critical needs for resiliency. In the longer term, we intend to build upon it to provide several truly transformative space-based services, including the GlobalFi direct-to-smartphone broadband data service and a self-supporting commercial venture to help remediate the space debris environment by recycling space trash into new space systems."

Artist's concept: Firmamentum