The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has selected Northrop Grumman as its commercial associate for the Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) plan, the company declared March 4.
The declaration comes on the heels of Northrop Grumman’s successful operation of its first satellite servicing Mission Extension Vehicle. The MEV-1 lifted off in October 2019 and last month docked in-orbit with an Intelsat communications satellite in an attempt to keep the spacecraft in operation for more five years.
Under the agreement, DARPA will present the robotics shipment for a Mission Robotic Car that will be utilized to service satellites in geosynchronous Earth orbit. The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory built the load. It comprises two dexterous robotic manipulator arms, along with several tools and sensors. Northrop Grumman’s SpaceLogistics division will provide the bus technologies it built for the MEV.
The deal with Northrop Grumman caps a turbulent three years for DARPA’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program. The agency in February 2017 selected SSL as its commercial associate over competitor Orbital ATK. After DARPA declared its selection of SSL, Orbital ATK unsuccessfully protested the decision in a federal court.
In January 2019, SSL’s parent firm Maxar Technologies pulled out of the joint-venture for financial reasons.
DARPA determined to give it one more try and solicited new bids last May. DARPA has a planned budget of $64.6 million for RSGS for the fiscal year 2020.