The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded a $15.5m contract to Boeing for Phase 2 work of the Fast Access Spacecraft Testbed (FAST) programme.

DARPA’s FAST programme will develop a new ultra-lightweight High Power Generation System (HPGS) that can generate up to 175kW of power for the International Space Station.

The combined strength of FAST with electric propulsion will form the base for future self-deployed, high-mobility spacecraft that will carry out servicing missions like ultra-high-power communications, space radar and satellite transfer.

The work on Phase 2 comprises designing, fabricating and integrating test articles, executing a series of component-level evaluations and running two full-scale system tests.

In Phase 1, the engineering team developed a preliminary design for an HPGS that is able to provide above 130 watts per kilogram on a system, which is less than half the weight and one sixth the size of an existing on-orbit solar power system.

The Phase 2 work will ensure the performance and operation of the HPGS’s solar concentration, power conversion, heat rejection, structure and deployment as well as its sun pointing and tracking subsystems.

The research and development arm of Boeing is working in collaboration with Boeing Network and Space Systems in California for the project.