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“The ISAM implications of resurrecting Spitzer are jaw dropping. This would be the most complex robotic mission ever performed by humanity.”

-Shawn Usman, CEO, RSA


What is the Spitzer Space Telescope?

In 1979, NASA established the Great Observatory program which included four telescopes to explore the Universe: Hubble, Compton, Chandra, and Spitzer. The Spitzer Space Telescope, launched in 2003, uses an ultra-sensitive infrared telescope to study asteroids, comets, planets and distant galaxies. It was the first telescope to detect light from an exoplanet (a planet outside our solar system) and the first spacecraft to use an Earth-trailing orbit. Spitzer outlived its design lifetime by over 12 years but has drifted further and further away from Earth over time. By 2020, the position of Spitzer relative to Earth was such that we could no longer communicate with it. NASA engineers decommissioned the spacecraft in January 2020, bringing the $1.36 billion Spitzer mission to a close. Spitzer is currently in “sleep” safe mode but still has ample fuel and space monitoring capability.


Why would we want to resurrect it?

Telerobotically extending the life of the Spitzer Space Telescope, using a “Resurrector” spacecraft equipped with JAM, presents incredible opportunities for space science and In-Space Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing (ISAM) technology demonstration. The U.S. Space Force (USSF) awarded $250,000 to Rhea Space Activity, Inc. in 2023 to confirm that a mission to resurrect the Spitzer Space Telescope is feasible and would advance U.S. capabilities by proving the ability to perform ISAM activities in deep space.


Benefits of a successful mission to the United States and USSF include:

  • Firmly establishing the United States as leader in ISAM by bringing a $1.36 billion asset back online and demonstrating the ability to resurrect other billion-dollar space-based assets.

  • Creating significant learnings for enabling ISAM at scale (if it can be done on the other side of the sun, it can be done in geosynchronous orbit).

  • Providing important information on space weather (e.g. coronal mass ejections, the main drivers of disturbances in the near-Earth and cislunar environment) that could affect aircraft and other U.S. military assets in space and threaten U.S. astronauts.

  • Providing capability for cislunar spacecraft monitoring and intelligence gathering.

  • Allowing the U.S. to detect and characterize potentially hazardous Near-Earth Objects (e.g. asteroids) that could threaten Earth, thus aiding NASA in its Congressionally mandated planetary defense mission which is currently not being fulfilled.

  • Extend Spitzer's mission of studying our solar system.








How will we do it?

RSA proposes the Spitzer Resurrector Mission as a technology demonstration that would send a “resurrector” spacecraft to autonomously locate, approach and rendezvous with Spitzer, awaken and upgrade its systems, then act as communications relay between Spitzer and Earth.

“The agreement notes the promise of in-space assembly and manufacturing (ISAM) to support a range of civil and national security missions and is aware that the Space Force is exploring a mission to resurrect the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope using such capabilities. The agreement encourages the Secretary of the Air Force to increase investment for ISAM and pursue avenues to collaborate with the civil space sector and industry on a near-term mission.”

-FY24 Defense Appropriation Bill

Related Content:


Rhea Space Activity awarded a USSF Contract to Investigate Telerobotic Resurrection of the Spitzer Space Telescope


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