The SAS will be an enabling technology for future exploration missions by providing a core technology for in-space robotic assembly of: - Extended operation space exploration vehicles - Planetary exploration surface habitats - In-space transportation hubs Future exploration missions either in Earth orbit or to other planets will require large space vehicles. The optimal architecture for in-space operations may not look like a traditional space vehicle like the Space Shuttle or Apollo-era vehicles, and will be too large to assemble on the ground and launch into space directly in-space assembly will be necessary. In fact, the International Space Station is a perfect example of such a space asset. Combining the enabling capabilities of robotically assembled, networked space frame structures, with other in-space robotic technologies being developed such as the in-space refueling work going on at NASA Goddard and the Phoenix robotic servicer/tender going on at DARPA, leads to the capability to assembled large structures on-orbit, connect multiple modules to a common structure, and create very large space systems that are not possible with today's methodology.
There exist multiple defense and commercial applications for the SAS including: - Large deployable aperture arrays to address the exponential increase in global mobile data consumption - GEO hosted payload platform to provide less expensive access to space for science, defense, and commercial customers DARPA is interested in the development of a persistent platform in GEO that would provide common resources (e.g. power, communications, attitude control) to a large number of hosted payloads. Scientists, commercial entities, or defense customers many times desire an on-orbit capability, but the required investment to develop and launch the asset simply outweigh the benefits or do not mesh with budgetary constraints. What if on the payload needed to be developed and there was inexpensive access to GEO via commercial payload delivery systems such as DARPA's Payload Orbital Delivery (POD) architecture. A GEO hosted payload platform could provide significant value to numerous payloads. This GEO platform is likely to be a networked space frame structure and the proposed SAS is key to realizing that architecture. This concept has significant scientific, defense, and commercial value both for payload providers (customers) as well as the GEO host provider from a revenue perspective.