Raytheon Company has delivered the first Space Enabled Effects for Military Engagements, or SeeMe, satellite to DARPA. Assembled on the company's advanced missile production lines, the new SeeMe satellite will provide greater situational awareness to soldiers on the ground. DARPA's SeeMe program is designed to show that small satellites can be built affordably to give small squads timely tactical imagery directly from a small satellite. A future constellation of small satellites would deliver high-resolution images of precise locations of interest to the soldier's handheld device.
"Ground troops can't always get immediate access to the larger, military and commercial satellites," said Dr. Thomas Bussing, Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems vice president. "These smaller, SeeMe satellites will be dedicated to soldiers, providing them with real-time images from space when they're needed most."
Using its automated missile production lines, Raytheon can build large numbers of these highly reliable, small satellites quickly and affordably. DARPA will integrate the Raytheon-built SeeMe satellite onto a Spaceflight Industries payload that will be launched into low-earth orbit on a SpaceX rocket later this year. Military users will have an opportunity to evaluate the satellite's performance during missions in early 2019.
Eventually, a SeeMe constellation may comprise several types of small satellites, each lasting one to five years before de-orbiting and burning up, leaving no space debris and causing no re-entry hazard.
According to DARPA, the SeeMe program aims to give mobile individual US warfighters access to on-demand, space-based tactical information in remote and beyond- line-of-sight conditions. SeeMe will provide small squads and individual teams the ability to receive timely imagery of their specific overseas location directly from a small satellite with the press of a button — something that’s currently not possible from military or commercial satellites.
The program seeks to develop a constellation of small “disposable” satellites, at a fraction of the cost of airborne systems, enabling deployed warfighters overseas to hit ‘see me’ on existing handheld devices to receive a satellite image of their precise location within 90 minutes. DARPA plans SeeMe to be an adjunct to unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology, which provides local and regional very-high resolution coverage but cannot cover extended areas without frequent refueling. SeeMe aims to support warfighters in multiple deployed overseas locations simultaneously with no logistics or maintenance costs beyond the warfighters’ handheld devices.
The SeeMe constellation may consist of some two-dozen satellites, each lasting 60-90 days in a very low-earth orbit before de-orbiting and completely burning up, leaving no space debris and causing no re-entry hazard. The program may leverage DARPA’s Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program, which is developing an aircraft-based satellite launch platform for payloads on the order of 100 lbs. ALASA seeks to provide low-cost, rapid launch of small satellites into any required orbit, a capability not possible today from fixed ground launch sites.