Accessibility Information

Users of assistive technologies such as screen readers should use the following link to activate Accessibility Mode before continuing: Learn more and Activate accessibility mode.

Request for Information (RFI) - Crowd-Sourcing Algorithms for Spacecraft Cluster Control

Solicitation Number: DARPA-SN-10-21
Agency: Other Defense Agencies
Office: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
Location: Contracts Management Office
  • Print
Special Notice
Added: Jan 05, 2010 11:38 am

Crowd-Sourcing Algorithms for Spacecraft Cluster Control

Request for Information (RFI)


Tactical Technology Office (TTO)
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)


The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency's (DARPA's) Tactical Technology Office (TTO) is requesting ideas for potential approaches to crowd-sourcing algorithms for control and coordination of multi-body spacecraft clusters. Specifically, DARPA seeks an open-innovation approach to the development of algorithms for the control of the Synchronized Position, Hold, Engage, and Reorient Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) that operate inside the International Space Station. Ideally, participation in the innovation process would be open to groups numbering in the hundreds, to thousands, to possibly millions of people worldwide. DARPA seeks to expand the range of uses to include a substantial science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education component, ideally applicable to a broad range of age levels.


This request for information (RFI) seeks ideas that can employ large groups of people¬-numbering hundreds, to thousands, to possibly millions-to participate in the development of control, coordination, and/or behavior algorithms and software for a three-body cluster of satellites capable of autonomous operations or operations with astronaut participation/supervision over periods of hours in a zero-gravity environment within the habitable compartments of the International Space Station. Specifically, the objective platform is the DARPA-sponsored Synchronized Position, Hold, Engage, and Reorient Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) platform, which has flown onboard the International Space Station (ISS) since May 2006. Details on the existing SPHERES facility can be found at, however, ideas that employ a similar platform but with more advanced capabilities or with more numerous satellites are also welcome as DARPA is in the process of commencing development of the next-generations SPHERES.

To date, the SPHERES testbed has been used principally for the development and testing of novel formation control and cluster reconfiguration algorithms applicable to various multi-body spacecraft missions such as fractionated satellites, interferometry, docking, and inspection. DARPA seeks to expand the range of uses to include a substantial science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education component at all levels. To maximally leverage the impact of SPHERES on STEM education, DARPA is interested in novel, out-of-the-box ideas for involving vast groups of people in SPHERES algorithm and software development, and potentially operations. Such concepts may involve, for instance, competitions, prize awards, massively-distributed collaborative development, viral campaigns, prediction markets, new ventures, etc., and may include the development of additional terrestrial or on-orbit infrastructure (hardware or software) to interface with the existing SPHERES satellites. The ultimate objective to ensure that a substantial portion of the populace has the requisite information, motivation, and opportunity to participate in the development of spacecraft cluster control algorithms for real on-orbit hardware operating in a zero-gravity environment.

With the responder's consent, DARPA provisionally plans to name one or more of the SPHERES satellites after the individual responder(s) submitting the most interesting ideas to this RFI. This plan is tentative, non-binding, and does not constitute an enforceable promise, offer, or solicitation on the part of the U.S. Government.


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), government research laboratories, and domestic or foreign private or public companies.

Submissions have the following formatting requirements:

a) 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;

b) A technical response to the problem posed above, with a two (2) page limit in 12 point font with 1 inch margins.

Responses should be submitted as a single file in plain text, rich text (RTF), or Microsoft Word format. Submission should be sent via e-mail to PLEASE DO NOT SEND PDF or ZIP FILES. The due date for responses is 5pm local time, Arlington, Virginia, on February 4, 2010.


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, NRO, and NASA); 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).


Paul Eremenko
Program Manager
Tactical Technology Office

Any inquiries to this RFI must be submitted to, not to the Program Manager listed above. No telephone inquiries will be accepted.

3701 North Fairfax Drive
Arlington, Virginia 22203-1714
Paul Eremenko,
Program Manager