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09:55 AM, February 10, 2017
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DARPA Selects Commercial Partner For Satellite Repair Program Despite Orbital ATK Lawsuit
DARPA Aims to Facilitate Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites

Despite Orbital ATK’s lawsuit, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has gone ahead with its Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program by selecting Space Systems Loral (SSL) as its commercial partner for the program.

DARPA and SSL seek to develop technologies that would enable cooperative inspection and servicing of satellites in geosynchronous orbit (GEO), more than 20,000 miles above the Earth, and demonstrate those technologies on orbit, DARPA said in a press statement Thursday.

“We estimate that DARPA will provide about 75% of the program funding but retain only about 10% of its capability, a highly questionable and inefficient use of public funds,” Orbital ATK stated in a lawsuit filed in a US District court for Eastern District of Virginia.

In contrast to the complaint, DARPA, under an agreement drafted jointly with SSL, said, “The two entities would share costs and responsibilities for the program. While such public-private partnerships have become common in several domains of research and development—saving taxpayer dollars by requiring commercial partners to invest significantly in projects rather than simply receive government funding—the RSGS public-private effort would be a first for DARPA in the space-servicing domain”.

 As such, the Agency’s selection of SSL and the pending agreement have been submitted for review by the Defense Department’s Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

SSL would operate the vehicle and make cooperative servicing available to both military and commercial GEO satellite owners on a fee-for-service basis. In exchange for providing property to SSL, the Government would obtain reduced-priced servicing of its satellites and access to commercial satellite servicing data throughout the operational life of the RSV, again at great taxpayer savings.

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