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Categories: 2016, Government Science and Communication

Cellularized Satellites—Initial Experiments and the Path Forward

Small satellites are an exciting technology in the space industry today. For example, over half a dozen private companies have announced plans to build large networks of smallsats to provide remote-sensing imagery data to customers. While smallsats can provide advantages over traditional large satellites, satellites assembled from “building block” cells called satlets could add to those advantages. Through funding from the Phoenix program at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), NovaWurks is developing the cellularization of satellite technology as a way to dramatically decrease the cost of new space assets, while also enabling these assets to be incrementally upgradeable and easily repairable. Basically, a small number of nanosat-scale satlets would serve as building-blocks for assembling a fully functional satellite, analogous to how living organisms are made up of basic cell types. NovaWurks has developed satlet technologies in HISatsTM, designed to be configured and aggregated as reliable, flexible spacecraft for a variety of space purposes. An initial set of HISat-based experimental missions are underway, and others are planned for the near future. These experimental missions seek to provide on-orbit verification of the satlet concept, the HISatTM instantiation of that concept, and key payload accommodation features. The spectrum of space access utilized to execute the experimental missions would serve to demonstrate the flexibility of the cellularized architecture concept. One mission would be assembled in space aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and then deployed. A second, the eXperiment for Cellular Integration Technology (eXCITe), plans to launch as a pre-launch assembled payload on an expendable launch vehicle (ELV) and deployed from a SHERPATM. The third experimental mission would utilize HISatsTM to “fly” a Payload Orbital Delivery (POD) system after deployment from a host satellite in geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). The path forward for HISat-based missions promises to push the envelope, providing capabilities once thought only achievable by much larger, traditional spacecraft buses. Distribution Statement “A” (Approved for Public Release, Distribution Unlimited).

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Author: Bill Crandall
Topic: Government, Science and Communication

  • Cellularized Satellites—Initial Experiments and the Path Forward

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