National Security Space (NSS) assets, critical to U.S. warfighting capabilities, traditionally reside in geosynchronous orbit to deliver persistent overhead access to any point on the globe. In the increasingly contested space environment, these exquisite, costly, and monolithic systems have become vulnerable targets that would take years to replace if degraded or destroyed. DARPA’s Blackjack program aims to develop and demonstrate the critical elements for a global high-speed network in low Earth orbit (LEO) that provides the Department of Defense with highly connected, resilient, and persistent coverage.
Blackjack seeks to incorporate commercial sector advances in LEO, including design of LEO constellations intended for broadband internet service, of which the design and manufacturing could offer economies of scale previously unavailable. DARPA is interested in capitalizing on these advances to demonstrate military utility, emphasizing a commoditized bus and low-cost interchangeable payloads with short design cycles and frequent technology upgrades.
The key program objectives are:
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