Maxar/SSL Cancels DARPA RSGS Satellite Servicing Agreement

Caleb Henry, for SpaceNews:

Maxar said it backed out the servicer program, which would have been able to refuel and repair satellites in space, in order to “focus its resources on ensuring optimal returns when weighed against other capital priorities, such as WorldView Legion.”

WorldView Legion is a constellation of Earth observation satellites SSL is building for Maxar’s DigitalGlobe division. Three weeks ago, DigitalGlobe reported that its newest satellite, WorldView-4, failed in orbit, making replacement satellites more urgent.

There’s a really great follow-up piece by Sandra Erwin that goes into detail on the cost sharing agreement behind RSGS, and it sheds light on why Maxar—who is having a hell of a few months—canceled the program.

They’re in damage control mode, and need to cut a business line that will not be profitable for a few years. I can’t imagine having the weight of that program helps a potential sale of SSL, either, as we’ve heard rumored for weeks.

The telling sign here will be whether DARPA pursues a continuation of RSGS with Northrop Grumman, who lost out on the original round of agreements. Northrop Grumman may feel confident enough in their Mission Extension Vehicles and Pods that they don’t need the additional complexity of RSGS, or they may feel like the robotic arm would be a valuable boost to their work.