SDA looking at on-demand services to pull down its satellites

By Shelley K. Mesch / March 27, 2024 at 10:26 AM

The Space Development Agency is looking for information on services to pull down Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture satellites as needed.

The broad agency announcement released this week asks for studies and concepts for “commercial on-orbit servicing to provide assisted disposal operations.” Responses should include commercial offerings, concepts of operations, potential satellite design considerations, timelines for operational services, pricing and technical, policy and contractual considerations.

The solicitation comes a week after Director Derek Tournear said using such on-demand deorbiting services could save the agency money by allowing more risk in the design process as it could plan and be ready for a certain failure rate.

SDA plans to cyclically launch hundreds of satellites into low-Earth orbit with five-year service lifespans. To meet space debris mitigation standards, those satellites will be deorbited, requiring each satellite to have sufficient propulsion capabilities to come back to Earth.

“Even though current plans are adequate to exceed these goals, SDA is also interested in commercially available options for assisted disposal services as a contingency, should they be required,” the solicitation states.

Without an on-demand service as a backup, satellites would need to be built with redundant propulsion capacity to ensure they can deorbit, Tournear has said.