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Update: DARPA awards contracts for Blackjack small satellite programme

16 January 2019
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The Blackjack programme is an architecture demonstration intending to show the high military utility of global LEO constellations and mesh networks of lower size, weight, and cost spacecraft. Source: DARPA

Key Points

  • DARPA recently awarded contracts for its Blackjack small satellite effort
  • Blackjack is an architecture demonstration intending to show military utility of global LEO small satellite constellations

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded a handful of contracts in support of the agency’s Blackjack small satellite constellation effort.

Airbus announced on 14 January that it received an award for Blackjack and that OneWeb Satellites would be its strategic joint venture partner on the programme. Airbus spokesman Quentin Hunstad said that Airbus will provide programme and contract management and, with OneWeb, engineering work.

Hunstad said the company’s contract is worth USD2.9 million and covers engineering work through preliminary design review (PDR) and delivery of a simulator. He added that the contract is for the satellite-bus only and that DARPA will contract payloads separately. Hunstad said there are no satellites to deliver at this phase of the DARPA programme.

On 8 January DARPA awarded Trident Systems Inc a USD1.5 million contract for Blackjack, according to a notice posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website. A request for comment left with Trident had not been returned at the time of publication. DARPA said on 15 January that Trident’s contract is for a satellite payload.

Blackjack is an architecture demonstration intending to show the high military utility of global low earth orbit (LEO) constellations and networks of lower size, weight, and cost spacecraft. DARPA is searching for affordable mass-produced payloads and buses that it can refresh at the pace of technology on the ground.

Pentagon satellites have been historically custom-designed to specific mission sets with lengthy design and/or enhancement cycles at high cost per spacecraft. They have also become targets for adversaries during warfare.

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