Pentagon Wants To Build 'Disposable' Satellites
March 15, 2012

Pentagon Wants To Build ‘Disposable’ Satellites

The Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) said it is considering building "disposable" satellites for frontline warfighters.

DARPA said its Space Enabled Effects for Military Engagements (SeeMe) program aims to give mobile individual U.S. warfighters access to "on-demand" tactical information in remote and "beyond- line-of-sight" conditions.

The program would help provide small squads the ability to receive satellite imagery of their location just with the press of a button.

“We envision a constellation of small satellites, at a fraction of the cost of airborne systems, that would allow deployed warfighters overseas to hit ℠see me´ on existing handheld devices and in less than 90 minutes receive a satellite image of their precise location to aid in mission planning,” Dave Barnhart, DARPA program manager, said in a press release.

He said the satellites would cost $500,000 each, and would require using existing off-the-shelf technologies for rapid manufacturing, such as a smartphone for communication.

The satellite constellation would consist of about two-dozen satellites, each lasting 60 to 90 days in very low-earth orbit before de-orbiting and burning up.

“With a SeeMe constellation, we hope to directly support warfighters in multiple deployed overseas locations simultaneously with no logistics or maintenance costs beyond the warfighters´ handhelds," Barnhart said.

The U.S. Army already has access to drone aircraft to provide intelligence, but these aircraft cannot cover extended territory without refueling.

“SeeMe is a logical adjunct to UAV technology, which will continue to provide local or regional very high-resolution coverage, but which can´t cover extended areas without frequent refueling."

DARPA has organized a "Proposers' Day" to discuss the project further on March 27.