Ottawa, Canada, November 27, 2018 – DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has awarded a contract to Telesat under which Telesat will undertake investigations that could lead to the Department of Defense (DoD) making greater use of commercial low earth orbit satellite constellations, such as Telesat’s LEO system, for DoD’s future space-based communications. The investigations will include evaluating the advantages of DoD using the same spacecraft buses as those Telesat will use in its LEO constellation and having these future DoD spacecraft link to Telesat’s LEO constellation via laser-based communications. The result of these investigations could lead to DoD using Telesat’s LEO system for its global broadband connectivity needs.The award to Telesat was made by DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO) under its Blackjack program. Blackjack is an architecture demonstration of a proliferated small satellite constellation in Low Earth Orbit to provide global persistence, low latency communications, and rapid technology refresh. This will be accomplished by leveraging commercial space technologies including commoditized spacecraft buses, ground infrastructure, and user segments at unprecedented costs.Telesat will work with its sub-contractor Leidos (NYSE: LDOS) to complete required deliverables under Telesat’s DARPA contract. Telesat will leverage Leidos’s experience working with government customers in creating cutting-edge emerging technologies and transition programs from R&D to fielding, including numerous programs with DARPA. ...
Airbus Defense and Space Inc. has become the second satellite manufacturer awarded a contract under DARPA’s Blackjack program to demonstrate a constellation of low Earth orbit ... [article is paywalled]
Congress has been a huge supporter and added more than $100 million above DARPA’s request. But as the program matures, lawmakers have raised questions about its management. DARPA’s plan all along was to conduct a demonstration and then turn the program over to the Air Force. But the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center already is taking on an active role. Lawmakers want to see Blackjack accelerated and some have suggested it should move to SMC sooner rather than letter. “There’s a management issue brewing,” said an industry source.
Blackjack will develop and demonstrate a low earth orbit constellation that provides global persistent coverage. This opportunity focuses on development of spacecraft autonomy hardware and software elements.
Proposal Due Date and Time: April 12, 2019 by 2 p.m. Eastern Time
Just noticed there was a recent RFI for Blackjack launches. Individual sats will be in the 150-800kg range (all will be the same but they haven't downselected a design yet). First launch Sep. 2021 with 2 sats. Second launch March 2022 with 18? sats. They can be secondary payloads. The desired orbit for both launches is circular, at 450 km +800/-0 km altitude, with an inclination of 70 degrees +35/-20 degrees.Request for Information for Blackjack Satellite Launch Services
With this much variance they haven’t selected a mission. This seems like a fishing expedition and an exercise in exclusion. What rockets can do the maximum combination of mass, inclination, and altitude?
In partnership with the U.S. Space Force and Space Development Agency, DARPA’s Blackjack program is targeting flights to low-Earth orbit (LEO) later this year and 2021. Using a series of small risk reduction satellites, the program aims to demonstrate advanced technology for satellite constellation autonomy and space mesh networks. Blackjack seeks to develop and validate critical elements of global high-speed autonomous networks in LEO, proving a capability that could provide the Department of Defense with highly connected, resilient, and persistent overhead coverage.The upcoming demonstration flights are all planned as rideshares, catching a ride to LEO on a launch with other missions. The first demonstration, Mandrake 1, is a cubesat that will carry supercomputer processing chips. Mandrake 2 is a pair of small satellites that will carry optical inter-satellite links for broadband data. These could form the basis of future optically meshed computer networks in LEO.The program also is targeting a risk reduction payload called Wildcard, a software-defined radio that will experiment with links from LEO to tactical radios. A data fusion experiment with the ability to host advanced third party algorithms, known as massless payloads, is intended for an upcoming Loft Orbital mission.“It's important that we get the design right,” says Paul “Rusty” Thomas, the program manager for Blackjack. “We focused first on buses and payloads, then the autonomous mission management system, which we call Pit Boss. We anticipate we'll begin integrating the first two military payloads next summer with launch via rideshare in late 2021, followed by the remainder of the Blackjack demonstration sub-constellation in 2022.”
Blackjack is an experiment to demonstrate the capabilities of small satellites in low Earth orbit for military communications, missile warning and navigation.Optical terminals from SA Photonics already are in space as part of a DARPA demonstration called Mandrake 2. Two small satellites — launched June 30 on a SpaceX rideshare mission — were deployed by the agency to prove out optical inter-satellite link technology in preparation for the first launch of Blackjack satellites. A DARPA spokesperson said Jan. 28 that the Mandrake 2 satellites “remain healthy and testing is ongoing.”The first batch of Blackjack satellites will launch this fall also on a SpaceX rideshare, the spokesperson said.
Julie Pecson, Lockheed Martin’s Blackjack program director, said the first four spacecraft are scheduled to launch in June 2022.