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DARPA Selects Northrop Grumman for RSGS

Hot on the heels of MEV-1 successfully docking with its first target, the good news continues for Northrop Grumman’s Space Logistics business:

Under the agreement, DARPA will provide the robotics payload for the Space Logistics Mission Robotic Vehicle. This payload, developed and integrated by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, consists of two dexterous robotic manipulator arms, along with several tools and sensors. SpaceLogistics will provide its Mission Robotic Vehicle bus leveraging technologies developed for the industry’s first- ever satellite servicing vehicle, the Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV).

The Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program has had a tumultuous path from the original award to SSL, through an unsuccessful protest by Orbital ATK (now Northrop Grumman), and ending with SSL dropping out for financial reasons. When SSL dropped out in January 2019, I wrote:

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.

Turns out Northrop Grumman sees the collaboration (and the first sale of a Mission Robotic Vehicle flight) as a valuable path for their work.

With the first MEV mission in progress, a second one sold and awaiting launch, and now some activity on the Mission Robotic Vehicle front, the Space Logistics business seems to be working out so far.