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DARPA Orbital Debris Removal (ODR)

Solicitation Number: DARPA-SN-09-68
Agency: Other Defense Agencies
Office: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
Location: Contracts Management Office
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Special Notice
Added: Sep 17, 2009 4:58 pm
DARPA Orbital Debris Removal (ODR)

Request for Information


Tactical Technology Office (TTO)

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)


This is a Request for Information (RFI) by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Tactical Technology Office (TTO) regarding implementation of an orbital debris removal capability. The Government does not intend to award a contract on the basis of this RFI or to otherwise pay for the information solicited. The Government may consider issuing a formal solicitation at a later date.

Information is sought from all potential sources, domestic and foreign, on innovative technological solutions that will enable the Government to provide orbital debris removal capabilities and to identify interest and qualification for participation in any future program.


Since the advent of the space-age over five decades ago, more than thirty-five thousand man-made objects have been cataloged by the U.S. Space Surveillance Network. Nearly twenty-thousand of those objects remain in orbit today, ninety-four percent of which are non-functioning orbital debris. These figures do not include the hundreds-of-thousands of objects too small to be cataloged, but still large enough to pose a threat to approximately nine-hundred operational satellites in orbit around the Earth. In addition, collisions between debris objects could potentially lead to a continuously growing debris population, thus increasing the risk to operational satellites.

For several years space-faring nations have recognized the mounting risk posed by orbital debris. Mitigation measures to minimize the generation of debris, such as post-mission disposal, have been adopted by many countries with some success in an attempt to slow the growth of the orbital debris population. However, since January 2007 we have experienced a nearly fifty percent increase in the number of cataloged debris objects, largely due to the intentional destruction of an active satellite by the Chinese government in 2007, as well as the collision between an active Iridium satellite and a retired Russian communications satellite earlier this year.

The primary objective of this RFI is to identify possible technical approaches for cost effective and innovative system concepts for the removal of orbital debris. The debris population of interest includes small (1-10mm), medium (1-10 cm) and large (derelict spacecraft/expended rocket bodies) sized debris in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), as well as large sized debris in Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO). This RFI is exploring the realm of concept system solutions that could effectively remove significant amounts of debris in a cost-effective fashion. Potential approaches would clearly identify applicable orbital regime(s) (e.g. LEO, sun-synchronous, GEO, etc), target debris (e.g. small, medium, or large debris, as defined above), and timeliness of removal process (e.g. immediate, days, weeks, or years). DARPA is looking for information on the full spectrum of potential solutions from quickly clearing a congested region in space of all types of debris to strategically removing large objects across a range of altitudes to manage the overall growth rate of debris.

Responses to this RFI could address design options, systems architecture, and relevant experience. The primary focus of the RFI response should be systems approaches to debris removal addressing:

1. Debris population and orbits being addressed by the system concept

2. Physics-based approaches to debris removal as a system level solution

3. End-to-end concept of operations (CONOPS)

4. The response time of the removal concept

5. An estimate of an economic metric (e.g. $/kg removed or $/particle removed)

6. Description of required maneuverability or pre-positioning required for either a space-based or a ground-based concept

7. System risks (e.g., risks to operational spacecraft, potential for generating additional debris, etc.)

8. Approach to complying with international goals of debris mitigation

9. Reliance on future or existing assets or whether the system concept operates independently of other assets

10. Ability to achieve development of the concept solution and demonstrate interest in participating with possible future solicitations


This announcement contains all information required to submit a response. No additional forms, kits, or other materials are needed.

DARPA appreciates responses from all capable and qualified sources including but not limited to universities, university affiliated research centers (UARCs), federally-funded research and development centers (FFRDCs), private or public companies, and Government research laboratories.

Submissions have the following formatting requirements:

1) A one-page cover sheet that identifies the submission title, organization(s), responder's technical and administrative points of contact—including names, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of all co-authors;

2) A one-page executive summary summarizing the key ideas;

3) A technical response to the problem posed above, with a 5 page limit in 12 point Times New Roman font with 1 inch margins;

4) An optional list of citations (including URLs if available);

5) A one-slide graphical depiction of the concept.

Responses to items (1) through (4) should be submitted as a single file in Adobe PDF or Microsoft Word format, item (5) should be submitted as a separate, second file in Adobe PDF or Microsoft PowerPoint format. Submission should be mailed to DARPA/TTO, Attn: ODR-RFI, 3701 N Fairfax Dr, Arlington, VA 22203 or emailed directly to, respectively. DO NOT SEND ZIP FILES. The due date for responses is 5pm local time, Arlington, Virginia, on October 30, 2009.


This is an RFI issued solely for information and program planning purposes; this RFI does not constitute a formal solicitation for proposals or abstracts. NO CLASSIFIED OR PROPRIETARY INFORMATION SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN THIS RFI RESPONSE. Your response to this notice will be treated as informational only. In accordance with FAR 15.201(e), responses to this notice are not offers and cannot be accepted by the Government to form a binding contract. DARPA will not provide reimbursement for costs incurred in responding to this RFI. Responses to this RFI are not required to propose to subsequent Broad Agency Announcements or research announcements (if any) on this topic. Respondents are advised that DARPA is under no obligation to acknowledge receipt of the information received or provide feedback to respondents with respect to any information submitted under this RFI. Responses to this RFI do not bind DARPA to any further actions related to this topic including requesting follow-on proposals from vendors responding to this RFI. Submissions may be reviewed by: the Government (DARPA and partners, including but not limited to the Air Force, Navy, Army, NASA, and the FAA); Federally Funded R&D Centers (such as Aerospace Corporation, MITRE, and RAND); and Systems Engineering and Technical Assistance (SETA) contractors (such as Booz Allen Hamilton, Schafer Corporation, Science and Technology Associates, and the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies).


Dr. Wade Pulliam

Program Manager

Tactical Technology Office

Any inquiries to this RFI must be submitted to No telephone inquiries will be accepted.
3701 North Fairfax Drive
Arlington, Virginia 22203-1714
Wade A Pulliam,
Program Manager, Tactical Technology Office (TTO)
Phone: N/A
Fax: N/A