Production-rate DARPA SeeMe satellite contract awarded to Raytheon

TUCSON, AZ. A $1.5 million Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) contract for the first phase of the Space enabled effects for Military engagements (SeeMe) program has been awarded to Raytheon Company. The nine-month contract will have Raytheon design small satellites capable of delivering on-demand imagery and information directly to the warfighter to enhance battlefield situational awareness.

The SeeMe program is aimed at constructing a low-cost satellite constellation on a DoD schedule (as opposed to DARPA), and Raytheon plans on using its missile assembly lines to achieve this quickly and affordably. "As the world's only producer of exo-atmospheric kill vehicles, we are already developing and building hardware to space standards," commented Tom Bussing, Raytheon Missile Systems' vice president of Advanced Missile Systems. "We are pleased to be working with DARPA to solve the challenge of providing warfighters with a tactical space sensor capability at a production rate price.”

The SeeMe program plans to eventually deploy roughly 24 “disposable” satellites that last from 60 – 90 days in low earth orbit before de-orbiting and being completely destroyed upon re-entry. Working in tandem with existing handheld devices and as an adjunct to Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology, the SeeMe constellation hopes to be able to deliver beyond-line-of-sight imagery of precise locations within 90 minutes and at the press of a button. DARPA may leverage the Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ASALA) program to quickly and affordably launch the lightweight satellites.

To assist in design and production of the satellite system, the Sierra Nevada Corporation, SRI International, and the University of Arizona will assist Raytheon. Phase two of the SeeMe project is schedule to begin next year, with six satellites planned for ground testing.