Aviation Week reports that Raytheon has received a $1.5-million, nine-month contract to begin designing a small imaging satellite under the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s Space Enabled Effects for Military Engagements (SeeMe) project.
SeeMe intends to demonstrate a 24-satellite constellation that can provide rapid tactical intelligence to the warfighter. The SeeMe satellite would provide 1-meter resolution images on demand to handheld terminals in the field.
DARPA specified that each SeeMe should weigh less than 100 pounds. Raytheon’s concept is substantially lighter at 44 pounds. Another goal is affordable, on-demand production. DARPA wants to the manufacturer to be able to deliver a satellite within 90 days of initial order, for no more than $500,000.
DARPA plans to begin launching SeeMe satellites in 2015 using the new Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) launch system, which is also being developed by DARPA.
Clark Lindsey at New Space Watch questions DARPA’s approach, which depends on the development of a specific launch technology. He suggests that a better approach would be to “start with the general capability desired and then invite a competition among particular technologies to gain that capability.” He notes that DARPA’s highly successful Grand Challenge for autonomous land vehicles took the latter approach.
Perhaps DARPA should look at picking up sponsorship of the Nanosatellite Launch Challenge, which was recently canceled by NASA?