No Big Deal, DARPA’s Just Building Space Wall-E

Harvesting parts from the vast fields of space junk.

Artist's rendering.

Artist’s rendering.

Looks like DARPA is still hard at work combing through that office video library for new ideas. Wired reports that the Pentagon’s resident mad scientists have just released an update on their Phoenix project, an attempt to make satellites less earth-shatteringly expensive. And what have the brains in the basement (we assume their office is in a basement and also looks like the set of the IT Crowd) dreamed up? 

Basically, it’s Wall-E in space.

As Wired explains, the plan is to “have space robots pluck functional antennas off of dead satellites floating above geosynchronous orbit, and combine them with small, modular ‘satlets’ into new, longer lasting communications satellites.” So it’s recycling, but via robots and in outer space.

Finally, a use for all that space junk zipping around the heavens! The trick is going to bringing the costs down far enough that it’s cheaper than just launching a whole new satellite.

Here’s a video illustrating the concept, with an appropriately synth-heavy planetarium-style soundtrack:


No Big Deal, DARPA’s Just Building Space Wall-E