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06:29 PM, January 1, 2018
NASA, DARPA to Build Robotic Service Stations in Orbit to Defend Against Enemy Satellites
Robotic service vehicle (Artist rendering by Space News)

NASA has teamed up with the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to build robots that can not only refuel and repair satellites, but also sabotage enemy spacecraft in the event of space war.

These robotic satellites, known as ‘service stations in orbit,’ could improve the lifespan of satellites.

The robots could fix minor maintenance issues, keeping up with current orbiters as they age and sustain damage. Currently faulty systems can rarely be repaired in space and have to be replaced, which is difficult and expensive. Additionally, the repair bots could sabotage enemy satellites in the event of space war. Possible applications would include dismantling opponents or forcing them to crash, Futurism reported Monday.

The service stations will also help clear up space debris. In 2015, there were about 25,000 human-made objects larger than a human fist and roughly half a million larger than a dime orbiting Earth. These objects travel at high speeds and could pose a serious hazard to new satellites and spacecraft venturing beyond the Earth.

Until now, robots have been able to help astronauts in orbit only at the International Space Station. As a part of the ISS system, space debris is being managed by a ‘robotic arm’ that can effectively save astronauts working on the probe orbiting the Earth. Many studies have also being looking to target asteroids and comets, should any of them be sizeable enough to harm our planet.

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