The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has challenged programmers to develop algorithms capable of gathering components from retired or non-working satellites that are still in orbit.
The Defense Department’s research arm said the Zero Robotics Autonomous Space Capture Challenge competition begins March 28 and will last for four weeks.
DARPA said programmers will work to develop mechanisms for retrieving valuable and working parts of existing satellites still in space.
The algorithms will be programmed into bowling ball sized satellites called Spheres: synchronized position, hold, engage and reorient experimental satellites.
The programmed satellites will be used aboard the International Space Station and undergo simulated deliveries, requiring the algorithm to direct the satellite to approach a moving object and communicate with it.
Dave Barnhart, DARPA program manager, said success of this simulation will solve the challenge of autonomous space object capture and benefit the Phoenix payload on-orbit delivery system as well as space servicing systems in the future.
Winners of the challenge will be invited to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to watch the testing of the algorithms via videolink with the International Space Station.
DARPA’s efforts with this competition are in line with a January notice indicating the agency’s desire to utilize dormant satellites’ valuable components with the help of contractors through its Phoenix program.