DARPA Wants Standards for Robotic Servicing in Space

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has announced a new program to establish standards for the deployment of robotic vehicles to perform on-orbit satellite work. Since 2014, DARPA has shown interest in supporting robotic servicing of commercial and military space vehicles in geosynchronous orbit as part of its larger drive to achieve real-time space operations. Now DARPA is taking the next step by creating a Consortium for Execution of Rendezvous and Servicing Operations (CONFERS) to address “the lack of clear, widely accepted technical and safety standards for responsible performance of on-orbit activities,” according to an agency press release. The new group seeks to “leverage best practices from government and industry to research, develop, and publish non-binding, consensus-derived technical and safety standards for on-orbit servicing operations” and “provide a clear technical basis for definitions and expectations of responsible behavior in outer space.” DARPA says it hopes to perform its first robotic servicing of geosynchronous satellites in 2021.