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WASHINGTON — The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency next week will start reviewing bids from space industry vendors as it sets out to prove that there are cheaper, nimbler alternatives to traditional military satellites.
DARPA last year launched the project known as Blackjack with the goal to develop a low Earth orbit constellation to provide global persistent coverage for military operations. The closing date for bids is June 6.
Surveillance - Communications - Missions - Blackjack-funded - Prototype
Global surveillance and communications would be the obvious missions for Blackjack-funded prototype constellations, but there have been talks about broadening the scope to more complex assignments such as space-based battle management. DARPA will take on the initial development and engineering work for the next three years and later could turn over prototype systems to the U.S. Air Force for further testing and possibly operational use.
The basic formula will be to attach military-unique sensors and payloads to commercial satellite buses. DARPA plans to award $117.5 million in contracts over three phases to up to eight bus or payload suppliers. According to DARPA's solicitation, there will be additional contract awards down the road for autonomy hardware and software, launch services, ground systems and constellation flight operations.
DARPA - Blackjack - Program - Architecture - Demonstration
DARPA describes the Blackjack program as an "architecture demonstration intending to show the high military utility of global LEO constellations and mesh networks of lower size, weight, and cost spacecraft nodes." No single type or size of bus or mission payload type will be considered "optimal" for this demonstration.
A DARPA spokesman said the agency...
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