DARPA's Smallsat Imaging Constellation

"Doubts still hang over the military utility of small satellites, holding back progress on low-cost, quick-reaction systems that could be launched at short notice to fill gaps in space coverage. To prove their viability, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) has begun a program to demonstrate that small satellites produced and launched on demand can provide imagery on request directly to individual soldiers. Darpa's goal is to show that a constellation of 24 satellites, each weighing less than 100 lb., can be launched into low Earth orbit (LEO) at a fraction of the cost of acquiring additional unmanned aircraft to provide the same imagery. Raytheon has received the first contract under the Space Enabled Effects for Military Engagements (SeeMe) program. The $1.5 million contract is for the nine-month first phase to design a small imaging satellite. Darpa says other contracts will be awarded as well. Darpa's Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (Alasa) program is developing the booster to launch the SeeMe satellites quickly and affordably. Alasa is to be air-launched at short notice from a tactical fighter or business jet with minimal modification to the aircraft." More at Aviation Week

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