The pentagon has recently called for a new fleet of smaller, disposable spy satellites to be deployed in Earth’s orbit, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is answering the call.
Thanks to Hollywood spy films, it’s easy to imagine that the government can simply tell a satellite to look somewhere and, within minutes, the military has a nice, clean photo of the area they targeted. In reality, however, this is far from the case.
As it stands, military satellite operators have to slowly get their nearest spy satellite in position, which can at at times take up to several hours–making the military’s current spy satellite technology less than ideal for planning out missions while already on the ground.
With DARPA’s SeeMe (Space Enabled Effects for Military Engagements) project, the government hopes to change that by launching a fleet of smaller, disposable spy satellites that could move to a location, snap a photo and have it sent to troops in a little over an hour.
“We envision a constellation of small satellites, at a fraction of the cost of airborne systems, that would allow deployed warfighters overseas to hit ‘see me’ on existing handheld devices and in less than 90 minutes receive a satellite image of their precise location to aid in mission planning,” said Dave Barnhart, program manager for DARPA.
If DARPA is successful with their project, this would mean that the U.S. military and its allies would have a reliable means to gather intelligence for an operation, without having to rely so heavily on UAVs, which have to make frequent refueling stops to keep up reconnaissance.
“SeeMe is a logical adjunct to UAV technology, which will continue to provide local or regional very high-resolution coverage, but which can’t cover extended areas without frequent refueling,” Barnhart said. “With a SeeMe constellation, we hope to directly support warfighters in multiple deployed overseas locations simultaneously with no logistics or maintenance costs beyond the warfighters’ handhelds.”