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Boeing To Build Orbital Express Prototype (Mar. 18)



SEAL BEACH, Calif.--- The Boeing Company announced today that it has been selected by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as the prime integrator to perform Phase II of the Orbital Express Advanced Technology Demonstration. Under the 42-month $113 million agreement with options, a Boeing Phantom Works team will finalize the design, fabricate and demonstrate the various technologies required for autonomous satellite servicing while on-orbit.

"We are elated with our selection and are keenly interested in perfecting this capability," said Ron Prosser, vice president of Advanced Space and Communications for Phantom Works. "By developing Orbital Express we will have a tremendous capability to improve the performance, maneuverability and potential upgrade of both military and commercial satellites. This leads to significant opportunities to repair satellites, or move stranded satellites to their correct orbits, saving hundreds of millions of dollars in replacement costs."

The unique Orbital Express advanced technology demonstrator will have the capability to autonomously service, repair and refuel satellites while on-orbit. The Boeing team will build the Autonomous Space Transport Robotic Operations satellite (ASTRO), and a surrogate serviceable satellite, NEXTSat, and conduct an on-orbit demonstration of autonomous satellite servicing. Launch is slated for 2006, with routine, cost-effective, autonomous capability for re-supply and reconfiguration of on-orbit spacecraft planned for the post-2010 timeframe.

"The Orbital Express win was crucial and I'm proud to be part of such a talented team," said Bruce Brandt, Orbital Express program manager for Phantom Works. "We are extremely excited and committed to successful execution of this most important national project."

DARPA foresees that an Orbital Express-derived satellites servicing architecture will usher in a revolution in space operations, enabling maneuverable and upgradable satellites supporting critical national security missions, as well as new and enhanced capabilities for civil and commercial space activities.

In an additional development, NASA's Space Launch Initiative (SLI) is partnering with DARPA in the Orbital Express demonstration in order to reduce technical risks associated with developing autonomous rendezvous capabilities. Leveraging work done through the Orbital Express technology demonstration is one step toward enabling potential commercial logistics missions to the International Space Station.

The Boeing Orbital Express Team includes, Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., TRW Space and Technology, McDonald Dettwiler Robotics, Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Inc. and Starsys Research Corp.

The team is led by the Phantom Works, the advanced research and development element, which serves as the catalyst of innovation for the Boeing enterprise. By working with the business units, it provides advanced systems solutions and innovative, breakthrough technologies for reducing the cycle time and cost while improving the quality and performance of aerospace products and services.

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Boeing Team Selected To Build Orbital Express Advanced Technology Demonstration System