Palski & Associates Launches Summer Project with USC

This summer, our team of undergraduate interns will work with USC’s Prof. David Barnhart to design a small satellite that could aid in situational awareness for DARPA’s satellite servicing missions.

These missions operate under the umbrella of DARPA’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program, which launches satellites that repair and maintain orbiting space vehicles. These satellites allow DARPA to extend satellite life through cooperative relocations and correct “mission-ending” space vehicle errors, such as a failed solar array or antenna deploy.

Essentially the handymen of space, these servicing satellites use their robotic arms and a set of tools to fix or upgrade space vehicles, as they orbit the earth. To avoid damage or creating debris, it is imperative that the servicing satellites know exactly where they are in space relative to the satellite being serviced, to avoid colliding with or damaging the space vehicle they work on.

That’s where our summer project comes in.

Our objective is to design a small satellite that would help situate a “servicing satellite” and its’ articulating arms around a space vehicle, so that it can perform its’ repairs safely and effectively.

During the 12-week project, our team intends to gather enough technical evidence of this small satellite functioning in deep space to be able to propose the design to DARPA, or other interested agencies. Ideally, the proposal will showcase a systems engineering plan to support a small satellite that could potentially be built and flown within 18 months of a funded project.

Prof. David Barnhart will lead our team to complete the design life cycle for this small satelite, run out of USC’s Space Engineering Research Center (SERC). The SERC is a joint operation between the USC Astronautics Department in the Viterbi School of Engineering and the Information Sciences Institute (ISI) where dozens of students per semester are managed and mentored by industry professionals. We are proud to be apart of such an amazing program and thank you USC for the opportunity to mentor next generation’s aerospace engineers.