DARPA successfully deployed two satellites on June 30 as part of the SpaceX Transporter 2 launch prove out advanced laser communications technologies for several U.S. defense and other government organizations.
Both Mandrake 2 spacecraft, Able and Baker, are functioning well and progressing through checkout and commissioning, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced Wednesday. Mandrake 2 is a part of the Blackjack program to launch communication satellites in low earth orbit (LEO) to replace costly space-birds in geo-synchronous orbit that are difficult to replace if destroyed or degraded.
During its on-orbit mission, Mandrake 2 will demonstrate the viability of low size, weight, power, and cost laser communications terminals that are interoperable. “This constitutes a game-changing advancement and a critical enabler for proliferated space architectures,” said Stephen Forbes who is program manager of the Blackjack program in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. “Mandrake 2 has already successfully demonstrated a rapid satellite development timeline, since the Blackjack program moved from contract award to delivery of space vehicles at the launch site in less than nine months.”
DARPA’s Blackjack program aims to develop the critical elements for a global high-speed communications network in low Earth orbit (LEO) that provides the Department of Defense with highly connected and persistent coverage.