Northrop Sends Spacecraft Bus to AFRL for ‘Arachne’ Solar-Beaming Research Mission

Northrop Grumman
Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman has delivered a spacecraft bus to the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory in support of the Arachne program aimed at demonstrating power-beaming systems in low-Earth orbit by 2024.

Northrop provided the “Helios“ component for the Arachne spacecraft that will carry technologies built to convert solar power into radio-frequency resources as part of AFRL's Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research program, the lab said Thursday.

Helios, which will house the solar-beaming components such as communications, altitude and thermal control systems, is also meant to help AFRL assess the feasibility of using converted energy for usable ground power.

Northrop also built the Space Solar Power Radio Frequency Integrated Transmission Experiment which is meant to integrate with Helios to help power Arachne's subsystems.

Helios' delivery marks the beginning of the testing phase for technologies that will interface with the spacecraft bus, which is an ESPAStar platform based on the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle secondary payload adaptor element.

Kevin Bryant, program manager for the Arachne program, said the Northrop-built bus serves as the third platform in the long-duration propulsive ESPA portfolio that supports technology transition efforts under AFRL's ESPA Augmented Geosynchronous Laboratory Experiment.

Helios will serve as the first ESPA spacecraft element to be deployed in LEO for an AFRL mission.

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