Space power electronics for mobile satellites is goal of DARPA contract to Boeing

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., 12 June 2009. Engineers at Boeing Satellite Systems Inc. in El Segundo, Calif., are moving ahead with a program to develop space power generation capability to provide ample electricity for maneuverable satellites with power-hungry payloads like communications and radar.

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., 12 June 2009. Engineers at Boeing Satellite Systems Inc. in El Segundo, Calif., are moving ahead with a program to develop space power generation capability to provide ample electricity for maneuverable satellites with power-hungry payloads like communications and radar.

Boeing Satellite won a $13.8 million contract Thursday from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., for phase 2 of the Fast Access Spacecraft Testbed (FAST) program to develop a power electronics subsystem for a light-weight, high-power, highly mobile satellite.

The FAST space power electronics program is to develop a high power generation subsystem (HPGS). This high power electronics system would combine with advanced electric propulsion systems to form the technological basis for generating as much as 50 to 80 kilowatts of power for normal operations aboard movable satellites.

The FAST program will demonstrate that high-power subsystems, using a combination of moderate-to-high levels of solar flux concentration, high-flux capable solar photovoltaic cells, efficient power management and distribution, and innovative heat rejection schemes, will permit spacecraft to perform significant maneuvers with electric propulsion to enhance the military utility of these maneuverable spacecraft.

Boeing is to finish phase 2 of the FAST program by September 2010. Phase 2 work will include fabrication, assembly, and testing of two HPGS test articles. In addition to Boeing Satellite, the Hamilton Sundstrand Corp. Energy, Space & Defense segment in Windsor Locks, Conn., also is working on phase 1 of the FAST program.

Boeing's team members on the first phase of the FAST program include DR Technologies, Northrop Grumman Astro Aerospace, Texas A&M University, and Spectrolab Inc.

DARPA scientists want to use FAST technology to design maneuverable satellites able to be launched to low-Earth orbit, but later to move to geosynchronous orbit on their own power for responsive on-orbit servicing architectures, on-orbit space situational awareness capabilities, and remove power constraints from payloads such as ultra wide-bandwidth communications or radar.

For more information contact Boeing Satellite Systems online at www.boeing.com.

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