April 13, 2024

DARPA has launched a downsized version of its Blackjack space experiment, deploying four satellites in low Earth orbit as part of a technology demonstration. Originally conceived as a 20-satellite constellation, the Blackjack project aims to showcase the use of commercial space technologies for military purposes. However, due to the progress made by the U.S. Space Force’s Space Development Agency in deploying its own LEO constellation, the scope of the Blackjack project has been reduced. The recent launch took place aboard SpaceX’s Transporter-8 rideshare.

DARPA,Blackjack space experiment,SEAKR payloads,CACI optical terminals,satellite technology,low Earth orbit,Blue Canyon Technologies,SpaceX Transporter-8,military applications

Illustration Credit: BCT

The four identical Blackjack satellites were built by Blue Canyon Technologies, a subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies, using their commercial Saturn-class buses. Each satellite carries SEAKR Engineering’s Pit Boss data processing node and Storm King radio-frequency payload. Additionally, there are four laser communications terminals provided by CACI on each satellite. The goal is to demonstrate the performance of low-Earth orbit systems comparable to those in geosynchronous orbit, while adhering to the size, weight, and power constraints of the commercial bus.

DARPA’s program manager for Blackjack, Stephen Forbes, confirmed that there are no plans to add more satellites to the experiment beyond the four launched on June 12. The satellites will undergo several months of commissioning, followed by orbit raising, before engaging in demonstrations of interactions involving proliferated satellite architectures. This downsized Blackjack experiment signifies a shift in DARPA’s strategy as it adapts to evolving space technology developments.

By leveraging SEAKR payloads and CACI optical terminals, DARPA aims to advance the capabilities of satellite technology for military applications. The successful demonstration of these technologies in low Earth orbit could open doors for future advancements and collaborations within the commercial space sector.

About Author

Leave a Reply