DARPA call for disposable satellite swarm for soldiers

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has put out a call for experts to help build a swarm of satellites that would let soldiers overseas access near-live satellite images of their location, something not possible with current satellites as they are in the wrong orbits and are difficult for troops on the ground to access.

DARPA's SeeMe program (Space Enabled Effects for Military Engagements) aims to let soldiers hit a "see me" button on a hand-held device such as a smart-phone or tablet and receive a satellite image back in less than 90 minutes.

The system will consist of around two-dozen small satellites at a cost of $500,000 each. Individual satellites will occupy a very low-earth orbit, sweeping a particularly band of the planet every 90 minutes and lasting two or three months before burning up on re-entry. A meeting later this month will bring together experts from the cellphone, car racing and advanced optics industries to discuss how the satellites might be built.

The idea behind the satellites' medium-term lifespan and range is to fill a gap between traditional imaging satellites and UAVs. "SeeMe is a logical adjunct to UAV technology, which will continue to provide local or regional very high-resolution coverage, but which can't cover extended areas without frequent refuelling," says DARPA program manager Dave Barnhart.

Source: newscientist.comAdded: 15 March 2012