Autonomous mini-satellites to replace their aging big brothers

Military minds at DARPA are figuring out ways to replace cumbersome satellites with groups of mini-spacecraft that are easier and quicker to launch, are more versatile, and best of all, that cost a lot less than their oversized big brothers. The project, named F6, stands for "Future Fast, Flexible, Fractionated, Free-Flying," and it involves groups of small satellites electronically linking together, creating larger virtual satellites.

Not only are these mini-spacecraft more efficient, they'll be smarter, too, able to act autonomously in some situations and demonstrate "cluster gathering behavior." DARPA is now planning a space demonstration of the technology by 2011.

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