DARPA has a history of making things that sound fantastic a reality. One of the latest projects that DARPA is working on is reportedly a space-based transportation hub that would be able to build, refuel, and repair spacecraft in orbit around the Earth. The coolest part about this space hub is that it would operate without humans on board.
DARPA plans to make the transportation hub robotic and DARPA’s Pam Melroy says that the robotic platform is possible in the relatively near future. Exactly how far away the relatively near future is DARPA doesn’t say.
Melroy and DARPA envision a very robust platform in space that isn’t about making a single satellite with specific capabilities, but a robust ecosystem that is able to support transportation, repair, refueling, and upgrading as well as construction. With several nations having built and tested anti-satellite weaponry in the past, being able to repair or launch satellites from orbit could be huge for national security.
The transportation hub would be built in geosynchronous orbit (GEO), which is where most satellites operate. Geosynchronous orbit allows the satellites to hover above one spot on the planet’s surface. One major reason for the platform to be automated and run by robots is due to higher levels of radiation that prevent humans from spending extended time in GEO.