The objective of the System F6 program is to develop and demonstrate the basic building blocks of a radically new space architecture in which traditional large, multi-functional "monolithic" spacecraft are replaced by clusters of wirelessly interconnected spacecraft modules. Each of these modules performs a subset of the tasks performed by a large classical spacecraft and works together in a cluster to provide the same overall effective mission capability. By allowing the various functions of a spacecraft to be developed and launched separately, this type of "fractionated" system provides benefits such as reduced overall risk, budgetary and planning flexibility, faster initial deployment, and ultimately greater survivability, including selective replacement of damaged or obsolete elements of a complex spacecraft.
"System F6 has the potential to be a game-changing innovation in the way space systems are designed, built and operated in much the same way as the DARPA-developed Internet has changed many aspects of our daily lives," stated Mr. Gregg Burgess, Orbital's Vice President for National Security Systems in the company's Advanced Programs Group. "System F6 is not just an incremental improvement in technology, but rather a fundamental transformation of the entire space community. Fractionated and networked architectures could be the answer to recurring problems that debilitate the space sector, including significant cost increases, late deliveries, launch mishaps and on-orbit failures."
In the next phase of the System F6 program, Orbital will be responsible for the detailed design and ground testing of the new technologies, architectures and programmatic concepts required to successfully fractionate a space system. These include wireless data communications, cluster flight operations, distributed spacecraft computing systems, rapidly relocatable ground systems, and value-centric design methodologies.
Orbital was selected by DARPA out of four Phase 1 contractors to continue work on Phase 2 of the program, leading to a planned flight demonstration in 2013. The company's program partners include IBM and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Phase 2 will include development of the detailed design of the spacecraft modules, ground elements and launch options; a hardware-in-the-loop test-bed ground demonstration with new technology prototypes; and release of an F6 Developer's Kit, which will allow third-parties to design compatible fractionated modules.
System F6 incorporates most key technology development in an "open source" format, a new and radical concept in spacecraft systems. All software source code, interfaces, standards and operating systems will be available to everyone, including the public. This will allow any interested third parties to develop modules compatible with the existing spacecraft network. These modules can launch and connect to the already deployed cluster, allowing them to leverage resources available in the network. The eventual goal is to provide an open source compatibility platform where any new satellite launched into space can access and reap the benefits of a worldwide interconnected system, similar to how the Internet functions on Earth.
Orbital develops and manufactures small- and medium-class rockets and space systems for commercial, military and civil government customers. The company's primary products are satellites and launch vehicles, including low-Earth orbit, geosynchronous-Earth orbit and planetary spacecraft for communications, remote sensing, scientific and defense missions; human-rated space systems for Earth-orbit, lunar and other missions; ground- and air-launched rockets that deliver satellites into orbit; and missile defense systems that are used as interceptor and target vehicles. Orbital also provides satellite subsystems and space-related technical services to government agencies and laboratories. More information about Orbital can be found at http://www.orbital.com.
Note to Editors: A high-resolution concept image of DARPA's System F6 in orbit is available on Orbital's web site at: http://www.orbital.com/images/High/F6_constellation.jpg
SOURCE: Orbital Sciences Corporation
Orbital Sciences Corporation
Barron Beneski, 703-406-5528
Public and Investor Relations