Design Engineering

MDA selected for DARPA Phoenix program

By Design Engineering Staff   

General Aerospace Aerospace DARPA MacDonald Dettwiler and Associated Ltd. Robotics satellite

Space robotics project to “recycle” dead communications satellites.

Richmond, BC, — MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. announced that it has been selected to participate in the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Phoenix Program. MDA will provide a variety of servicing technologies and capabilities to the program, under multiple contracts to DARPA and the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL).

The goal of the DARPA Phoenix Program is to salvage viable components from non-working satellites and create new space systems. The mission will use a robotic on-orbit servicer, and components launched alongside commercial satellites.

A core element of the program is two primary robotic manipulator arms. MDA is working with the Naval Research Laboratory via DARPA to provide those arms. Assuming all phases of the program are funded, the company says this sole-sourced element of the program could add up to no more than $27.2 million for MDA.

Beyond the robotic arms themselves, MDA has also been awarded two separate contracts from DARPA to develop advanced robotic tools, cameras, tool caddies and advanced designs for a hyper-dexterous robot.


An important element of the mission concept is the ability to launch components into space frequently and cost effectively, by piggybacking their launch onto a regular commercial satellite launch. MDA is under contract from DARPA to design and prototype the delivery system in which the components are sent to orbit (called PODS).

Phase 1 of the program is under contract now and MDA’s scope (not including the sole-sourced robotics arms) is approximately $2.6 million, which is expected to grow when Phase 2 gets underway next year.


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