Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyAbout UsHistory and Timeline

Where the Future Becomes Now

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency was created with a national sense of urgency in February 1958 amidst one of the most dramatic moments in the history of the Cold War and the already-accelerating pace of technology. In the months preceding the official authorization for the agency’s creation, Department of Defense Directive Number 5105.15, the Soviet Union had launched an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), the world’s first satellite, Sputnik 1, and the world’s second satellite, Sputnik II… More

SEMATECH
1986
Beginning in 1987, the SEMATECH consortium received funding from the Federal Government to help revitalize the U.S. chipmaking industry. SEMATECH is an acronym that derives from Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology A decade after its founding, in 1997, the consortium was standing on its own without annual funding from the Government. It has since spawned other organizations, such as the International Semiconductor Manufacturing Initiative with a focus on manufacturing equipment and operations.
Microwave and Millimeter Wave Integrated Circuit (MIMIC)
1987

The Microwave and Millimeter Wave Integrated Circuit (MIMIC) program’s objective was, according to a review by one of its program managers, “to develop microwave/millimeter-wave subsystems for use in military weapon system ‘front ends’ that are affordable, available, and broadly applicable.” The program catalyzed multi-faceted research in materials (gallium arsenide), device design, integration, defect management, manufacturing, and other areas. The work yielded a new infrastructure for MIMIC technology with specific applications proliferating throughout the military and commercial sectors.

Phased-array radar systems were among the technology’s earliest uses for defense, but as the technology progressed toward greater yields and cost reductions, cell phone designers turned to MIMIC-based power amplifiers, which placed far more communications reach in smaller packages than ever before. The program provided foundations for follow-on technology development and has served as a model for subsequent programs for pushing microwave, millimeter-wave, submillimeter-wave and THz-frequency solid-state electronics forward. In 1993, The Space Foundation, citing DARPA’s pivotal role, inducted MIMIC Technology into its Hall of Fame.

Tank Breaker
1987
Beginning in the 1970s, DARPA began the Tank Breaker program in response to deficiencies identified by the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps in their existing infantry anti-tank weapon. The Army evaluated two Tank Breaker designs by industry participants against alternatives in a shoot-off conducted in 1987-1988. The results led to selection of the Texas Instruments (later Raytheon) solution to the tank warfare challenge. Department of Defense officials approved it for full-scale development in 1989 under the Army’s Advanced Anti-armor Weapon System-Medium (AAWS-M) program. The Army later renamed the weapon Javelin, which entered full-scale production in 1997. It was the world’s first medium-range, one-man-portable, fire-and-forget anti-tank weapon system.
UAVs
1988
Under a joint program (Teal Rain) with the U.S. Navy, DARPA funded the development of the first endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Amber, which in 1988 flew for more than 38 straight hours and reached an altitude of 25,000 feet. The Amber demonstration featured innovations in many technologies (digital flight controls, composite materials, microprocessors, and satellite navigation) and led to the Gnat 750 and the Tier 2 Predator. DARPA also supported development of the Global Hawk, a related high-altitude UAV system. These platforms have been transformative with respect to warfighting and ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) capabilities.
Undermanned Undersea Vehicle
1988
Full-sized, staffed ships and other sea platform cannot perform safely in all Navy missions in near-shore, or littoral waters. These missions include mine location and avoidance as well as remote surveillance. In 1988, a joint DARPA/Navy Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUV) Program was initiated, with the goal of demonstrating that UUVs could meet specific Navy mission requirements. The program started with a memorandum of agreement between DARPA and the Navy that specified the design and fabrication of test-bed autonomous vehicles, the independent development of mission packages, and their subsequent integration. The Navy initially pursued a submarine-launched UUV that would either guide the submarine through an area that might be mined or search an area for mines. When the Cold War ended, however, the Navy revised the program with the objective of developing a tethered shallow-water mine reconnaissance vehicle for littoral warfare. The work in the UUV led to many follow-on projects, along with a range of technology developments. Even as the Agency enters its seventh decade, UUV R&D remains part of its portfolio.
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High Definition Systems
1989
The High Definition Systems program was started in 1989 as the High Definition TV program. It was renamed High Definition Systems in 1990 and continued until 1993. The program supported work on display-related technologies, including materials and manufacturing techniques. One novel technology supported by the program, digital mirror projection technology, became a commercial success in electronic projectors, and led to an Emmy Award and an Oscar Technical Achievement Award.
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RF Wafer Scale Integration
1989
The microelectronics revolution led to a ubiquity of fingernail-sized chips bearing integrated circuits made of large numbers of tiny transistors, interconnects, and other miniaturized components and devices. DARPA challenged the research community to achieve the tight integration of chips to the scale of the entire semiconductor wafer from which, normally, hundreds of chips would be diced and then packaged into separate components of electronic systems. Among the motivations were the expectations of higher computation or storage capability in a smaller volumes, higher-reliability systems; and reduced power consumption of the wafer-based systems. The research included work in materials, defect management, manufacturing techniques, among other areas. The approach opened up novel engineering opportunities particularly for fabricating multi-element, phased-array, antenna modules on gallium-arsenide wafer for both transmitting and receiving signals.
Taurus Launch Vehicle
1989
DARPA initiated a Small Standard Launch Vehicle (SSLV) program that led to the Taurus, a launch vehicle designed to supply the Department of Defense with quick-response, low-cost launch of tactical satellites from ground facilities. The initial DARPA model was first test-launched in 1989 and first used operationally in 1994. The prime contractor subsequently offered the vehicle in four versions.
Vertical-Cavity Surface-Emitting Lasers
1989
First proposed in 1977 by Japanese researcher Kenichi Iga, the vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) would have characteristics similar to light-emitting diodes and could be coupled to optical fibers. Over the next decades, a small research community began chipping away at the technical challenges it would take to produce practical VCSEL devices. But not until 1989 when DARPA began a series of programs that would support, among other technology goals, the government-wide High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) Initiative, did the financial and institutional resources become adequate to move technical promise toward technological reality. VCSELs could provide short-distance, high-speed digital interconnections that would be important to meet goals of the HPCC initiative. One thrust of this effort led to the formation of the Optoelectronic Technology consortium, which led to an industry-stimulating demonstrating of multi-gigabit optoelectronic interconnect components that were based on VCSELs. At this point, still with some DARPA support, industry began to take the development baton. By 2000, VCSELs began to emerge from their developmental status into applications in fiber-fiber interconnections, optical data storage, and sensing applications. They later subsequent find roles in technologies, such as free-space chip-to-chip communications and atomic clocks, which were supporting or leading players in later DARPA programs.
Cermet Armor Material
1991

In addition to supporting advanced materials development since its early years, DARPA has at times been called upon to identify technologies for specific near-term applications. One of these tasks occurred for Operation Desert Storm (1991-1992) when ground forces experienced a critical need for more effective armor. The DARPA solution in this case, particularly for roof protection for the U.S. Marine Corps’ Light Armored Vehicles (LAVs) against artillery, was to ask the Lanxide Corporation to modify its cermet (ceramic/metallic) process and to work with a partner Foster Miller to produce appliqué armor.

From 1984 to 1986, DARPA supported the materials research and engineering that led to these cermet materials. With DARPA funding, 75 LAVs were up-armored with the tough composite materials. In the early 1990s, M-9 Armored Combat Earthermoves (ACE) also employed this lightweight armor. Variations of these cermet materials have been used for cockpit armor by the U.S. Air Force in C-130, C-141, and C-14 aircraft in Bosnia.

The Lanxide material has also been employed as high-power-density heat sinks for the F/A-18 and F-16 radars, turbine tip shrouds, commercial satellite heat sinks, very stiff parts for semiconductor lithography machines, and as vehicle brake components. All of the military and civil uses of Lanxide evolved directly from DARPA’s program. The military uses were under DARPA support, and then transitioned to U.S. Army and Air Force programs.

Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar – Elevation (IFSARE)
1991
In the early 1990s, DARPA developed an airborne, all-weather, radar-based mapping capability that generated maps of the terrain with an accuracy to within six feet of elevation and that could do so day or night, and in adverse weather conditions, such as thick cloud cover or rain. Under DARPA sponsorship, the Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM) carried out the project and mounted an interferometric radar system on a Learjet 36A to collect data, which was then processed on the ground into digital elevation models.
Affordable Short Takeoff Vertical Landing
1991

In 1983, DARPA began working with the U.K. Ministry of Defense (MoD) to develop a follow-on supersonic generation to the AV-8 Harrier, a pioneer aircraft for short takeoff and landing (STOL) capabilities. The international program that emerged from this intention, the Advanced Short Takeoff Vertical Landing (ASTOVL), expired in 1991, but various component efforts toward the same end continued. For its part, DARPA worked with the U.S. Navy to establish a development program for an STOVL Strike Fighter with capabilities specified by the Navy in 1988. The program evolved toward an aircraft that could build on much of the design base for the Air Force F-16.

In 1992, DARPA and the Navy initiated a revised ASTOVL program with an objective of demonstrating an affordable STOVL strike fighter for the U.S. Marine Corps with a conventional takeoff and landing version for possible U.S. Air Force service. In 1993 and 1994, this morphed into the DARPA-managed Common Affordable Lightweight Fighter (CALF) and into subsequent evolutionary incarnations managed by other Department of Defense entities.

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Uncooled IR Detection
1991
DARPA proved that practical, uncooled infrared detector technology was possible under the Low Cost, Uncooled Sensor Program (LOCUSP) of the late 1980’s. Previous generations of IR sensors used cryogenics to cool the detector materials and reduce system noise. Although these steps proved to be effective – these earlier systems were credited with being a major factor in the U.S. ground victory in Desert Strom, for example – the sensors were costly to develop, prohibiting widespread distribution to combat troops. Under the LOCUSP program, cost-effective, uncooled IR detector technology was developed, fabricated, and demonstrated for use across various military applications. In 1991, the Uncooled Focal Plane Arrays (UCFPA) project was started under the Balanced Technology Initiative to create practical applications of DARPA’s research into uncooled sensor arrays. Under this effort, uncooled focal plane arrays were advanced for applications such as surveillance systems for perimeter defense and weapon sights.
Brilliant Anti-Tank Munition
1992
DARPA and the U.S. Army’s Fort Belvoir Research, Development and Engineering Center ran a series of concept studies in the early 1970s to define requirements for an anti-tank weapon referred to as the Terminally Guided Anti-Armor Indirect Fire Weapon System. Under DARPA’s wing, that morphed into the Brilliant Anti-Tank Munition (BAT)), a terminally guided anti-armor munition originally intended to be carried aboard the TriService Standoff Attack Missile. Its design featured dual seekers to minimize spoofing and a novel acoustic sensor that could cue on the sound of running tank engines. A decade after the program began, more than 1,100 pre-production and low-production units had been built.
Non-Penetrating Periscope
1992

In response to a call by Congress to establish a program to develop and efficiently transfer new hull, mechanical, and electrical technologies outside of normal U.S. Navy research and development channels, DARPA answered with the Advanced Submarine Technology (SUBTECH) program. Among ten technology demonstrations that successfully transitioned from the program to the Navy between 1989 and 1994 was the Non-Penetrating Periscope (NPP).

The NPP transformed submarine mast development when a prototype system using commercial visible and infrared spectrum cameras was built and demonstrated on the submarine USS Memphis in 1992. Using fiber optic data transmission, the new telescoping mast eliminated the need for the deep, hull-penetrating well that had been required to accommodate the optics tube on the then-current generation of submarines. The NPP also allowed greater flexibility in hull and interior design for future submarines.

DARPA becomes ARPA
1993
In character with President Clinton’s emphasis on economic growth, the Department of Defense restored DARPA’s original name, ARPA, to, in the words of a letter distributed by William Perry, then Deputy Secretary of Defense, “to expand the agency’s mission to pursue imaginative and innovative research and development projects having a significant potential for both military and commercial (dual-use) applications.” In 1996, the Agency again would pick up that D, for Defense, and become known once again as DARPA.
Spintronics
1993
In 1993, program manager Stuart Wolf initiated what become a sustained sequence of programs that helped develop the foundations of magnetics-based and quantum microelectronics. The first program, Spintronics, catalyzed the development of non-volatile magnetic memory (MRAM) devices and led to SPiNS, a program that sought to develop spin-based integrated circuits (ICs). During this period, DARPA started a dozen related programs in the field of magnetics and electron spin for microelectronics that collectively helped launch increasingly diverse and complex technologies, including ones that led to astoundingly dense data storage.
DARPASAT
1994
Launched on July 13, 1994, the 198-kg DARPASAT demonstrated the possibility of placing in orbit a lightweight, low-cost payload for enhancing operational defense and warfighting capabilities. The primary performer, Ball Aerospace, oversaw the design, fabrication, integration, and testing of the spacecraft bus, which carried two government-supplied payloads. With frugal management of battery use and thermal loads, DARPASAT surpassed its mission goal of a three-year lifetime by lasting for eight years.
Micrelectromechanical Systems
1994
For many years beginning in 1994, DARPA provided substantial funding in the then emergent arena of micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMs). With lineage in microelectronics technology, MEMs researchers cleverly adapted standard semiconductor-fabrication methods to fabricate miniature mechanical structures such as flexible membranes, cantilevers, and even trains of interdigitated gears, and integrated these with electronics to create a menagerie of MEM systems. Among the target deliverables for the DoD were inertial navigation devices for smartening up weapons and tracking soldiers, miniaturized “laboratories on a chip” for such uses as detecting biological weapons in the field, and optical switches and displays. DARPA’s patient support is widely credited with adding consequential momentum to the field of MEMs, which since has blossomed into a multi-billion dollar market in the military and civilian sectors.
Sensor-Fuzed Weapon
1994
In 1994, the Sensor-Fuzed Weapon entered the Air Force Inventory. The weapon is an air-to-ground munition designed to meet the Air Force requirement for a general-purpose weapon that provides multiple kills per pass; can be employed over a wide area; functions under adverse weather conditions, at night, in an electronic countermeasures environment; and can be deployed from frontline fighters and bombers. DARPA began work in advanced weapons concepts for the Sensor Fuzed Weapon in the Assault Breaker Program as the Skeet Delivery Vehicle (SDV). In that program and related programs, DARPA developed and demonstrated a warhead and a simple infrared sensor concept leading to a 5.25-inch warhead, a more sophisticated sensor with target discrimination software, and a BLU launching/dispersal system. The smart projectile is a sensor-fuzed warhead comprised of an infrared sensor, a safe and arming device, a thermal battery, and a copper liner. The infrared sensor detects the target and fuzes the warhead to explosively form the copper liner into a kinetic energy projectile that can defeat both armored and soft vehicle targets.
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Microwave/Analog Technology
1995
DARPA launched the Microwave and Analog Front End Technology (MAFET) program in 1995 as a follow-on to the Millimeter Wave Monolithic Integrated Circuits (MIMIC) program, which began in 1987. MAFET aimed to significantly reduce non-recurring costs for microwave and millimeter-wave sensor systems for military applications.
Predator
1995
DARPA developed the first medium-size endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Amber, which directly led to the Gnat 750 UAV and the Air Force-operated Tier 2 Predator UAV used in Bosnia. At altitudes of up to 25,000 feet for periods exceeding forty hours, the Predator aircraft operated successfully as an element of Exercise Roving Sands in early 1995 and was deployed in the Bosnia crisis to support UN/NATO operations. Originally a Navy-Army joint effort, the Predator UAV was transitioned to the Air Force in 1995 for operation and maintenance. The Amber Program was initiated in 1984, under DARPA’s rapid prototyping philosophy.
X-31
1995

The X-31 experimental aircraft was designed and built by Rockwell and Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm (MBB), as part of a joint U.S. and German Enhanced Fighter Maneuverability program to improve pilots’ abilities to control the aircraft’s pitch and yaw with more finesse than was possible in most conventional fighters. One outcome was the ability, with the help of design elements such as thrust vectoring, to execute controlled flight at extreme angles of attack at which conventional aircraft would stall or lose control.

DARPA joined the cause by sponsoring tests of the X-31. During a test on November 6, 1992, one of the two X-31s that were built in the program, achieved controlled flight at a 70° angle of attack. On April 29, 1993, the second X-31 successfully executed a swift, minimum-radius, 180° turn using a post-stall maneuver, a maneuver well beyond the ability of conventional aircraft. Of the two aircraft, one survived to the conclusion of the X-31 program in June 1995. That aircraft underwent further research at the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland. Its ultimate destination was Germany where it remains on display at the Deutsches Museum Flugwerft Schleissheim.

ARPA renamed DARPA, again
1996
With a desire by national leadership to re-emphasize the Agency’s focus on defense matters over commercial ones, ARPA regains its D for Defense to again become DARPA.
Geographic Synthetic Aperture Radar
1996
The Geographic Synthetic Aperture Radar (GeoSAR) program was an airborne radar-based project for simultaneously mapping foliage canopies along with the terrain underneath the canopies. Begun in 1996, the program outfitted a commercial Gulfstream II business jet with a dual-band (P-band and X-band), dual-sided, interferometric mapping radar, designed to efficiently map wide-areas in a single pass of the aircraft.
Schottky IR Imager
1996
From 1973 to 1980, DARPA funded efforts that reduced to practice a totally new concept for obtaining infrared (IR) images of targets. In Desert Strom, warfighters use such imagers to locate tanks and other military equipment buried in the sand. To continue to advance the technology, DARPA funded R&D for a new generation of IR imagers in the mid-90’s.
Soldier 911
1996
SOLDIER 911 is a personal emergency radio that monitors the position of the wearer, and if the soldier approaches a restricted area, the radio alerts the soldier and his or her chain of command. The radio also contains an emergency call button whereby the wearer can call for immediate assistance (hence the “911” name), and a geolocation network report-back system. SOLDIER 911 responded to an immediate need identified in 1995 by the Commander-in-Chief (CINC), Europe, to alert peacekeepers in Macedonia when they were approaching the Serbian border.
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Head-Mounted Displays
1997

With an eye on the future of wearable computers and other technologies that can assist warfighters in daunting acts of multi-tasking, DARPA initiated programs to develop head-mounted displays to enable soldiers to view information with unprecedented ease and efficiency.

Miniature Air-Launched Decoy
1999
In 1999, the first flight test associated with the Miniature Air-Launched Decoy (MALD) program, which begun in 1995, took place. With origins in the tradition of metal radar-confusing chaff dropped from aircraft, the point of MALD was to develop a small, inexpensive decoy missile to counter air defense measures.
PicoSAT
2000
DARPA initiated a microsatellite program featuring extremely small microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) radio frequency (RF) switches. The first picosat mission, launched on January 26, 2000, demonstrated MEMS RF switches operating on a pair of tethered satellites, each one weighing just over one pound. The program demonstrated how constellations of small satellites could work together in the future with dramatically reduced size and power requirements.
High-Productivity Computing Systems
2002
DARPA established its High-Productivity Computing Systems (HPCS) program, with a goal of revitalizing supercomputer research and markets, and incubating a new breed of fast, efficient, easier-to-use and affordable machines. DARPA made initial grants to five key players: IBM, Cray, Hewlett-Packard, Silicon Graphics, and Sun Microsystems.
Personal Assistant That Learns (PAL)
2002
Through its Personalized Assistant that Learns (PAL) program, DARPA created cognitive computing systems to make military decision-making more efficient and more effective at multiple levels of command; reduce the need for large command staffs; and enable smaller, more mobile, and less vulnerable command centers. DARPA worked with military users to refine PAL prototypes for operational use, and with the defense acquisition community to transition PAL technologies into military systems.
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Quantum Key Distribution Network
2004
As part of the then three-year-old Quantum Information Science and Technology (QuIST) program, DARPA-funded researchers established the first so-called quantum key distribution network, a data-encryption framework for protecting a fiber-optic loop that connects facilities at Harvard University, Boston University, and the office of BBN Technologies in Cambridge, Mass.
The Grand Challenge
2004
DARPA ran its pathbreaking Grand Challenge with the goal of spurring on American ingenuity to accelerate the development of autonomous vehicle technologies that could be applied to military requirements. No team entry successfully completed the designated DARPA Grand Challenge route from Barstow, CA, to Primm, NV, on March 13, 2004. The event offered a $1 million prize to the winner from among 15 finalists that emerged from a qualifying round at the California Speedway, but the prize went unclaimed as no vehicles were able to complete the difficult desert route.
A-160
2005
DARPA paved the way for extended-range unmanned vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) operations by sponsoring development of another Hummingbird: the A-160, a long-endurance, high-speed unmanned helicopter that flew for 18.7 hours and in 2008 set a world record for endurance in its weight class. The A-160 was part of research pursued by DARPA and the Services to produce a range of autonomous platforms that could team with people to create a more capable, agile, and cost-effective force.
Big Dog
2005
With its sights on robotic pack mules to help warfighter in operations, DARPA initiated a program that yielded BigDog. The robot’s on-board computer controls locomotion, processes sensors, and handles communications with the user. BigDog’s control system keeps it balanced, manages locomotion on a wide variety of terrain, and does navigation. Sensors for locomotion include joint position, joint force, ground contact, ground load, a gyroscope, LIDAR, and a stereo vision system. Other sensors focus on the internal state of BigDog, monitoring the hydraulic pressure, oil temperature, engine functions, battery charge, and others.
Chip-Scale Atomic Clock
2005
The Chip-Scale Atomic Clock (CSAC) program created ultra-miniaturized, low-power, atomic time and frequency reference units. The development of CSAC enabled ultra-miniaturized and ultra-low power atomic clocks for high-security Ultra High Frequency (UHF) communication and jam-resistant GPS receivers.
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MiTex
2006
Boosted into geosynchronous orbit on June 21, 2006 aboard a Delta II rocket The Microsatellite Technology Experiment (MiTEx) technology demonstration investigated and demonstrated advanced high-payoff technologies from a variety of potential candidates, including lightweight power and propulsion systems, avionics, structures, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components, advanced communications, and on-orbit software environments.
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Revolutionizing Prosthetics
2006
The LUKE arm was developed by inventor Dean Kamen and his colleagues at DEKA Research & Development Corp. as part of DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics program with additional funding from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. Launched in 2006, DARPA’s program began with a radical goal: develop an advanced electromechanical prosthetic upper limb with near-natural control that would dramatically enhance independence and quality of life for amputees. Working with DARPA and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Rehabilitation Research and Development Service under a federal interagency agreement, DEKA spent years directly engaged with amputees in a number of studies, including VA studies, to better understand how the intersection of biology and engineering could ultimately lead to advanced prosthetic technologies. Mobius Bionics was launched in July 2016 to bring the LUKE arm to market. At a ceremony in New York in 2017, two veterans living with arm amputations became the first recipients of a new generation of prosthetic limb that promises them unprecedented, near-natural arm and hand motion.
Refueling
2007
In an in-air demonstration in 2007, DARPA teamed up with NASA to show that high-performance aircraft can easily perform automated refueling from conventional tankers. The 2007 demonstration was not entirely automated, however: a pilot was on board to set conditions and monitor safety during autonomous refueling operations.
DARPA Urban Challenge
2007
The DARPA Urban Challenge was held on November 3, 2007, at the former George AFB in Victorville, Calif. Building on the success of the 2004 and 2005 Grand Challenges, this event required teams to build an autonomous vehicle capable of driving in traffic, performing complex maneuvers such as merging, passing, parking, and negotiating intersections. As the day wore on, it became apparent to all that this race was going to have finishers. At 1:43 pm, “Boss”, the entry of the Carnegie Mellon Team, Tartan Racing, crossed the finish line first with a run time of just over four hours. Nineteen minutes later, Stanford University’s entry, “Junior,” crossed the finish line. It was a scene that would be repeated four more times as six robotic vehicles eventually crossed the finish line, an astounding feat for the teams and proving to the world that autonomous urban driving could become a reality. This event was groundbreaking as the first time autonomous vehicles have interacted with both manned and unmanned vehicle traffic in an urban environment.
Orbital Express
2007
The goal of the Orbital Express Space Operations Architecture program was to validate the technical feasibility of robotic, autonomous on-orbit refueling and reconfiguration of satellites to support a broad range of future U.S. national security and commercial space programs. Refueling satellites would enable them to frequently maneuver to improve coverage, improve survivability, as well as extend satellite lifetime. Electronics upgrades on-orbit would provide regular performance improvements and dramatically reduce the time to deploy new technology.
Massive DATA Analysis (TDA)
2008
With the goal of developing analysis techniques for massive data sets, DARPA rolled out the Topological Data Analysis (TDA) program, which ran from 2004 to 2008. Like many other programs, this one spawned a commercial firm, in this case a software firm that remained in business at the posting of this timeline in 2018.
Network (Red Balloon) Challenge
2009
To mark the 40th anniversary of the Internet, DARPA announced the DARPA Network Challenge, a competition that explored the roles that the Internet and social networking play in the timely communication, wide-area team-building, and urgent mobilization required to solve broad-scope, time-critical problems.
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HALO
2010
Leveraging past DARPA developments in laser-based versions of RADAR—known as LIDAR, short for light detection and ranging—the High-Altitude LIDAR Operations Experiment (HALOE) provided unprecedented access to high-resolution 3-D geospatial data. First deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, HALOE was one of several DARPA advances directly supporting the warfighter that earned the Agency the Joint Meritorious Unit Award from the Secretary of Defense in 2012.
Falcon HTV-2
2011
DARPA’s Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) program was a multiyear research and development effort to increase the technical knowledge base and advance critical technologies to make long-duration hypersonic flight a reality. Falcon HTV-2 is an unmanned, rocket-launched, maneuverable aircraft that glides through the Earth’s atmosphere at incredibly fast speeds—Mach 20 (approximately 13,000 miles per hour). At HTV-2 speeds, flight time between New York City and Los Angeles would be less than 12 minutes.
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VADER
2011
In collaboration with the Department of Defense’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), DARPA initiated the Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radar (VADER) program to design and deploy a radar system for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or small manned aircraft. Developed for DARPA by Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems, VADER provided synthetic aperture radar and ground moving-target indicator data to detect, localize, and track vehicles and dismounted troops.
Gallium Nitride Transitions
2012
For years, DARPA and its Service partners pursued the technically daunting task of developing high-power-density, wide-band-gap semiconductor components in the recognition that, whatever the end-state task, U.S. forces would need electronics that could operate and engage at increasing range. The result was a series of fundamental advances involving gallium nitride-enabled arrays, which now provide significant benefits in a wide range of applications in the national security domain.