Aurora Rises with the Phoenix

DARPA has selected Aurora Flight Sciences of Manassas, Va., for its Phoenix program, which aims to develop technologies to harvest still-useful components from retired satellites in geostationary orbit and create new systems with them on orbit. This project offers the potential to develop a “completely different methodology to build space systems” at a fraction of the cost of launching new satellites, said Javier de Luis, Aurora’s vice president for research and development, in the company’s release. Aurora is partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to develop prototypes of the attachment mechanisms that the program’s “satlets” would use to fix themselves on the retired satellites’ antennas. The satlets would then reposition the antennas so that they could relay radio signals to Earth, providing additional communications bandwidth to the US military, states the Aug. 13 release.