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ATK Wins DARPA Micro-Satellite Contract

By Rich Smith - Apr 23, 2013 at 11:23PM

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DARPA wants satellites that are as disposable as Tracfones, and nearly as cheap.

ATK (NYSE: ATK) -- the company also known as Alliant Techsystems -- announced Monday that it's just received an award from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, to perform work on the Space Enabled Effects for Military Engagements program, also known as SeeMe.

DARPA describes SeeMe as a program that will "give mobile individual U.S. warfighters access to on-demand, space-based tactical information in remote and beyond-line-of-sight conditions," and more clearly still, to let soldiers access "timely imagery of their specific overseas location directly from a small satellite with the press of a button."

How? By developing -- and launching into space cheaply -- a constellation of satellites so small, and so cheap to build and deploy, that they're considered essentially "disposable." Once aloft in Earth orbit, these satellites would keep an eye on things back on the ground, where soldiers requiring a quick bird's eye view of the tactical situation would be able to instantly access their imagery by hitting a "see me" button on their handheld device.

ATK's role in all of this would be to transition the advanced imagery-processing algorithms it's developed for use on unmanned aerial vehicles, for use on such disposable satellites. Key to this will be using ATK's expertise in miniaturized tech to minimize the size, weight, and power requirements of equipment so that they can effectively be installed on the envisioned small sats.

ATK did not disclose the value of the DARPA contract, or its duration -- only that it had won.

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