As mentioned previously, DARPA’s Phoenix program seeks
to develop and demonstrate technologies to cooperatively harvest and re-use valuable components from retired, nonworking satellites in GEO to create new space systems at greatly reduced cost. By robotically removing and re-using GEO-based space apertures and antennas from de-commissioned satellites in the graveyard or disposal orbit, space “junk” could become space “asset”.
A reader notes that DARPA recently awarded grants from the program to several firms including Altius Space Machines (for boom development), NASA JPL (for “gecko gripper” development), NovaWurks, Intelsat, MDA, ATK, and Space Systems Loral – see page 10 of Space News – July.9.12 (pdf).
Here is an announcement from NovaWurks about their “satlet” work for the program: NovaWurks Enables Greening of Space for DARPA – NovaWurks – July.10.12.
A demonstration mission is planned for the 2015-2016 time frame.
This elaborate video animation from DARPA shows an “artist’s depiction of how a retired satellite’s still usable antenna might one day be salvaged and turned into a new space asset as part of DARPA’s Phoenix program”: