Pentagon starts Phoenix trial to harvest defunct satellites, MacGyver new ones from orbit

The Phoenix Frankenprogram to harvest the corpses of expired satellites and cobble together new ones seemed like one of DARPA's more daft ideas, but this one has actually kicked off its first phase of development. The plan is to first launch a service craft -- replete with robotic arms and enough processing horsepower to work independently if needed -- followed by the tiny base-unit skeleton satlets. The service mothership would dip into an orbital area called the "graveyard", grabbing pre-chosen cadavers and picking off usable parts, especially valuable antenna arrays, with its robo-limbs. Those parts would be jury-rigged to the bare-bones units, creating usable Pentagon satellites and saving the $10,000 per pound launch cost. So far, a $2.5 million contract to develop the needed technology has been put in place, and bids for the no-frills satlets went out last week. Plenty of dirty work is still needed, so check the video after the break to see if the overly-elaborate plan can un-moot $300 billion of orbiting cold metal.