DARPA wants crowdsourcing applications to fly small satellites

DARPA envisions millions participating in satellite app development program

SPHERES satellites
Seems like the folks at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) were bitten by the crowd-sourcing bug.  The military research outfit is looking to groups "numbering in the hundreds, to thousands, to possibly millions of people worldwide" to develop what it calls crowd sourcing algorithms to discover new applications for its diminutive Synchronized Position, Hold, Engage, and Reorient Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) that operate inside the International Space Station.

And of your application is accepted, DARPA says it might even name one of the SPERES satellites after your group. 

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The MIT Space Systems Laboratory developed the five SPHERES satellites to provide DARPA, NASA, and other researchers with a system that could help those agencies test, technologies for use in formation flight and autonomous docking, rendezvous and reconfiguration algorithms, MIT stated. 

DARPA says it wants to expand the range of SPHERES uses to involve vast groups of people in SPHERES algorithm and software development. 

According to DARPA: "Such concepts may involve, for instance, competitions, prize awards, massively-distributed collaborative development, viral campaigns, prediction markets, new ventures and may include the development of additional terrestrial or on-orbit hardware or software to interface with the existing SPHERES satellites. The ultimate objective to ensure that a substantial portion of the populace has the requisite information, motivation, and opportunity to participate in the development of spacecraft cluster control algorithms for real on-orbit hardware operating in a zero-gravity environment." 

Such applications could end up influencing applications for programs such as DARPA's Future, Fast, Flexible, Fractionated, Free-Flying Spacecraft United by Information Exchange or System F6 program which ultimately aims to replace traditional satellites with clusters of wirelessly interconnected modules. The F6, is intended to let the military deploy individual pieces or what it calls "fractionated modules" of current all-in-one satellites. For example, each fractionated module would support a unique capability, such as command and control, data handling, guidance and navigation, payload. Modules could replicate the functions of other modules as well. Such modules can be physically connected once in orbit or remain nearby to each other in a loose formation, or cluster, harnessed together through a wireless network they create a virtual satellite. 

In December DARPA held one of its first crowdsourcing challenges when it wanted groups of people to find and plot 10 red weather balloons scattered at undisclosed locations across the country. The MIT Red Balloon Challenge Team won the $40,000 cash prize. 

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