The Pentagon Wants a Robot Swarm Space Station

Michael Peck
(U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Samuel Eckholm)

Michael Peck

Technology, Space

What does that mean?

The Pentagon Wants a Robot Swarm Space Station

The U.S. military wants tiny, robot space stations.

The goal is to conduct research in space. But such platforms would also be useful for orbital surveillance and even for combat missions such as missile defense.

The Department of Defense wants proposals for developing “a self-contained and free-flying orbital outpost,” according to the Defense Innovation Unit, the Pentagon’s agency charged with rapidly acquiring advanced technology. “The solution must be capable of supporting space assembly, microgravity experimentation, logistics and storage, manufacturing, training, test and evaluation, hosting payloads, and other functions.”

With an internal volume of 1 cubic meter, or just over 35 cubic feet, the space station probably wouldn’t be much bigger than a large refrigerator. The DIU also wants a payload of just 80 kilograms (176 pounds), a power supply of just 1 kilowatt (1000 watts) and a communications link of just 100 kilobits per second. That’s larger than the toaster oven-sized cubesats being developed for military and commercial use, but still very modest compared to the International Space Station or the 1970s Skylab platform.

The Pentagon wants a miniature space station with several features:

-Common berthing mechanism

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