Will Push Self-Deployed Spacecraft From Low To High Orbit And
Dust off your thinking caps to try
to get your brain around this one. An industry team led by
Boeing has received a contract from the Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for work on Phase 2 of the Fast
Access Spacecraft Testbed (FAST) program. The $15.5 million
cost-plus-fixed-fee contract is currently funded to $13.8
DARPA's FAST program aims to develop a new, ultra-lightweight
High Power Generation System (HPGS) that can generate up to 175
kilowatts -- more power than is currently available to the
International Space Station. When combined with electric
propulsion, FAST will form the foundation for future self-deployed,
high-mobility spacecraft to perform ultra-high-power
communications, space radar, satellite transfer and servicing
Boeing Phantom Works of Huntington Beach is leading the effort
with support from Boeing Network and Space Systems, El Segundo, CA.
The Phase 2 work will include designing, fabricating and
integrating test articles, performing a series of component-level
evaluations and running two full-scale system tests.
"Our team is pleased to partner
with DARPA in developing this powerful new technology," said Tom
Kessler, FAST program manager, Boeing Advanced Network and Space
Systems. "FAST offers significant cost and performance benefits to
our commercial, civil and national security customers, including
new high-power applications to provide a cost-effective means for
spacecraft to travel to the outer solar system."
During Phase 1 of the program, a preliminary design was
developed for an HPGS capable of providing more than 130 watts per
kilogram on a system that is less than half the weight and one
sixth the size of an existing on-orbit solar power system. The
Boeing-led team, which includes DR Technologies, Northrop Grumman
Astro Aerospace, Texas A&M University, Emcore, and others, also
defined the test program being conducted in Phase 2, which will
verify the performance and operation of the HPGS's solar
concentration, power conversion, heat rejection, structure and
deployment, and sun pointing and tracking subsystems.
The Boeing team's solar concentrator design offers higher
performance and greater radiation tolerance than current on-orbit
solar power generation systems. Boeing will also be using different
approaches to solar cell technology to include capabilities from
Emcore and Spectrolab.
The size efficiency of the HPGS enables a new class of compact
spacecraft that can self-deploy from low-Earth orbit to reach their
final orbit using electric propulsion. This permits the use of
smaller, less expensive launch vehicles that can support high-value
science missions to the outer solar system without the need for
expensive radioisotope power systems.