DARPA Tweaks Fractionated Satellite Program

DARPA is re-focusing its System F6 fractionated satellite demonstrator program to emphasize the development of an open space architecture and associated set of standards. The goal of this change is to attract academia and small businesses to participate in the program, as opposed to having only the participation of the larger, established space companies. System F6 is designed to demonstrate the feasibility of operating a “virtual satellite” on orbit that consists of clusters of small, wirelessly-interconnected modules that collectively provide a capability, like communications or overhead imagery, in place of today’s large monolithic satellite designs. “DARPA will compete the individual technical components of the System F6 separately so best-in-class performers may be selected to integrate through a collaborative development of standards and open-source software,” said Kaigham Gabriel, DARPA’s deputy director. DARPA intends to lead an orbital demonstration of System F6 in 2014. (DARPA release)