System F6 spacecraft cluster. DARPA

It’s a name only a government agency could love: the Future, Fast, Flexible, Fractionated, Free-Flying Spacecraft United by Information eXchange. Could DARPA possibly come up with a more tortured title for System F6?

Still, the name says something about the concept: using a team of small spacecraft to do the work of a single (bigger, more expensive, more vulnerable, less capable) satellite. DARPA has been talking about spacecraft clusters for years, but now the agency is planning to put some money where its mouth is. Earlier this week, DARPA gave Boeing Advanced Systems a $12-million-plus contract to demonstrate initial technologies for the concept; an on-orbit demonstration is planned for 2011.

For System F7, we hope DARPA will add a little Fun.