A new program created by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Defense that is in charge of developing new military technology, aims to recycle $300 billion worth of non-working satellites. It’s called the Phoenix Program, and it’s going to help clean up the waste that’s floating in space.
According to DARPA’s website, “The goal of the Phoenix program is to develop and demonstrate technologies to cooperatively harvest and re-use valuable components from retired, nonworking satellites in GEO and demonstrate the ability to create new space systems at greatly reduced cost. Phoenix seeks to demonstrate around-the-clock, globally persistent communication capability for warfighters more economically, by robotically removing and re-using GEO-based space apertures and antennas from de-commissioned satellites in the graveyard or disposal orbit.”
In a nutshell, the program aims to salvage any components of the satellites that may still be working, such as antennas, and reuse them for future satellites.
How will the program do this? Watch this video:
Usually, when a satellite stops working, a brand new one has to be made. Building a new satellite costs the Department of Defense billions of dollars, so the program would not only reduce space waste, but it would also reduce the amount of money spent on making these new machines.
The program itself won’t be cheap. It will need to employ remote imaging, robotics technology and special tools to actually grip and separate the satellite parts. However, if DARPA successfully gets the operation going, it could mean great things for the future of space recycling.