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On-Demand Satellite Imagery Envisioned for Frontline Warfighters

 

 

 

March 12, 2012

DARPA seeks expertise from mobile phone, medical pneumatics, industrial machinery, optics and automobile racing communities to build inexpensive, “disposable” satellites for timely overhead imagery.

 

Today, the lowest echelon members of the U.S. military deployed in remote overseas locations are unable to obtain on-demand satellite imagery in a timely and persistent manner for pre-mission planning. This is due to lack of satellite overflight opportunities, inability to receive direct satellite downlinks at the tactical level and information flow restrictions.

 

DARPA’s SeeMe program (Space Enabled Effects for Military Engagements) aims to give mobile individual US warfighters access to on-demand, space-based tactical information in remote and beyond- line-of-sight conditions. If successful, SeeMe will provide small squads and individual teams the ability to receive timely imagery of their specific overseas location directly from a small satellite with the press of a button — something that’s currently not possible from military or commercial satellites.

 

“We envision a constellation of small satellites, at a fraction of the cost of airborne systems, that would allow deployed warfighters overseas to hit ‘see me’ on existing handheld devices and in less than 90 minutes receive a satellite image of their precise location to aid in mission planning,” said Dave Barnhart, DARPA program manager. “To create inexpensive, easily manufacturable small satellites costing $500K apiece will require leveraging existing non-traditional aerospace off-the-shelf technologies for rapid manufacturing, such as the mobile phone industry’s original design manufacturers, as well as developing advanced technologies for optics, power, propulsion and communications to keep size and weight down.”