Northrop Grumman has released photos of successful fluid transfers between the two Orbital Express program spacecraft.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is attempting a three-month demonstration to prove that spacecraft can be autonomously refueled and upgraded on orbit by a service vehicle. Darpa believes enabling autonomous on orbit servicing would reduce the risk and cost of operating in space, enabling easy upgrades as technology improves and reducing launch costs. During the demonstration, a surrogate "Next Generation Satellite," is being serviced by the Autonomous Space Craft and Robotic Orbiter, or ASTRO.
Last week, the spacecraft successfully, and mostly autonomously, separated to a distance of 10 meters, flew in formation for an hour and remated. The program objective is for the spacecraft to separate to a distance of 7 kilometers. Darpa says this video moves faster than real time because it's composed of still pictures.
You can watch the video here.
--Catherine MacRae Hockmuth