NASA has awarded a $142 million contract to Maxar Technologies of Westminster, Colorado,to robotically assemble a communications antenna and manufacture a spacecraft beam in orbit. The technology demonstration is slated to take place on NASAs Restore-L spacecraft, designed to service and refuel a satellite in low-Earth orbit.
Above – The Space Infrastructure Dexterous Robot (SPIDER) technology demonstration is slated to take place on NASAs Restore-L spacecraft. The payload will assemble a functional communications antenna and manufacture a spacecraft beam. Credits: Maxar Technologies
The Restore-L spacecraft will be modified to accommodate a payload called Space Infrastructure Dexterous Robot (SPIDER). The payload includes a lightweight 16-foot (5-meter) robotic arm. Previously known as Dragonfly during the ground demonstration phase of the NASA Tipping Point partnership, SPIDER will assemble seven elements to form a functional 9-foot (3-meter) communications antenna. The robotically assembled antenna will demonstrate Ka-band transmission with a ground station.
The payload also will manufacture a 32-foot (10-meter) lightweight composite beam using technology developed by Tethers Unlimited of Bothell, Washington. The manufacturing element of the demonstration will verify the capability to construct large spacecraft structures in orbit.
We are continuing Americas global leadership in space technology by proving we can assemble spacecraft with larger and more powerful components, after launch, said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASAs Space Technology Mission Directorate. This technology demonstration will open up a new world of in-space robotic capabilities.
The second phase of the public-private partnership combines NASA resources with an industry contribution to reduce the overall cost to American taxpayers and the agency. The demonstration will mature technologies with cross-cutting applications for government and commercial missions, including human exploration of the Moon and Mars and in-space construction of large telescopes.
In-space assembly and manufacturing will allow for greater mission flexibility, adaptability, and resilience, which will be key to NASAs Moon to Mars exploration approach, said Brent Robertson, project manager of Restore-L at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The Restore-L project is developing a suite of technologies capable of refueling and servicing satellites in space. The spacecraft is currently targeted for launch in the mid-2020s.
The SPIDER payload team includes Maxar, Tethers Unlimited, West Virginia Robotic Technology Center in Morgantown, and NASAs Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
Brian Wang is a prolific business-oriented writer of emerging and disruptive technologies. He is known for insightful articles that combine business and technical analysis that catches the attention of the general public and is also useful for those in the industries. He is the sole author and writer of nextbigfuture.com, the top online science blog. He is also involved in angel investing and raising funds for breakthrough technology startup companies.
He gave the recent keynote presentation at Monte Jade event with a talk entitled the Future for You.  He gave an annual update on molecular nanotechnology at Singularity University on nanotechnology, gave a TEDX talk on energy, and advises USC ASTE 527 (advanced space projects program). He has been interviewed for radio, professional organizations. podcasts and corporate events. He was recently interviewed by the radio program Steel on Steel on satellites and high altitude balloons that will track all movement in many parts of the USA.
He fundraises for various high impact technology companies and has worked in computer technology, insurance, healthcare and with corporate finance.
He has substantial familiarity with a broad range of breakthrough technologies like age reversal and antiaging, quantum computers, artificial intelligence, ocean tech,  agtech, nuclear fission, advanced nuclear fission, space propulsion, satellites, imaging, molecular nanotechnology, biotechnology, medicine, blockchain, crypto and many other areas.