According to a company spokesperson, Blue Canyon Technologies has secured a contract option valued at $26.5 million to manufacture six satellites for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. In addition to four satellites purchased in June under a $14.1 million deal, DARPA has exercised its option to acquire six more satellites. Under the Blackjack scheme, the deals were awarded. The Blackjack program is a demonstration of the military value of low-Earth-orbit constellations as well as low-expense satellite mesh networks.
DARPA wants to build satellites that can be upgraded with new payloads without needing to rebuild the bus. In contrast to conventional acquisitions of the custom-built spacecraft, this approach will permit the military to accelerate development as well as reduce the cost of satellites. The first four spacecrafts will be supplied by the completion of the year, with the remaining six satellites launching by the end of the year 2022, according to Blue Canyon.
The spacecrafts are part of DARPA’s Blackjack initiative, which aims to illustrate a low-Earth-orbit mesh network of the small satellites. By the end of 2022, DARPA hopes to have a constellation in place. Raytheon Technologies owns Blue Canyon, which is located in Boulder, Colorado. Centered on its 150-kg X-SAT commercial bus, the firm is designing a custom bus model for DARPA. The customized bus contains advanced electric propulsion, a control grid, command as well as radiofrequency communications, data handling, and payload interfaces effective of hosting various military payloads, as per the spokesman.
Last year, DARPA performed a critical design analysis of Blue Canyon’s bus. The satellites will be assembled at the firm’s Lafayette, Colorado plant. If exercised, the current choices in DARPA’s deal are valued at $41.1 million. Blue Canyon is a private satellite bus operator with a burgeoning government clientele. It has designed satellites for DARPA, United States Air Force, and NASA, as well as providing the inclination control systems for the very first interplanetary CubeSats to reach Mars.
The first tiny spacecraft to ever depart Earth’s orbit, the Mars Cube One (MarCO) exploration, have been quiet for over a month, NASA announced on February 5. The two MarCO spaceships (called MarCO-A as well as MarCO-B, respectively) deployed in May as a demo project with the NASA’s InSight lander. The mission was designed to demonstrate that small satellites, which have proliferated in recent years, can survive and perform useful research outside Earth’s immediate vicinity, and the MarCOs fulfilled all of their objectives, according to NASA.