Having licked its wounds over past investment failures – the ending of the XS-1 reusable rocket programme after Boeing’s unilateral withdrawal being the most recent example – US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is determined to pick more proven projects to invest in. Following the successful demonstration docking of the Northrop Grumman MEV-1 service spacecraft with its Intelsat 901 target, DARPA is to fund Northrop Grumman via its Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites programme.

This will launch a similar Northrop Grumman-built Mission Robotic Vehicle spacecraft. This has been designed to dock with GEO satellites so that DARPA’s specialist robot repair arms (developed by the US Naval Research Laboratory) can be demonstrated.

Originally DARPA eschewed Northrop Grumman to partner with the Maxar-owned SSL (formerly known as Space Systems Loral), but SSL withdrew for financial reasons.

The MEV-1 satellite docking with Intelsat 901. Courtesy of Northrop Grumman