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Area Access

Relating to militarily contested or denied environments

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May 23, 2018, 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM PDT,
The L.A. Grand Hotel Downtown
DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office is hosting a Competitors Day and webcast to provide information to potential applicants on the structure and objectives of the DARPA Launch Challenge. The goal of the Challenge is to promote rapid access to space through frequent, flexible, and responsive launch. In late 2019, qualified teams will compete for prizes, with a top prize of $10 million.
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.
As commercial technologies become more advanced and widely available, adversaries are rapidly developing capabilities that put our forces at risk. To counter these threats, the U.S. military is developing systems-of-systems concepts in which networks of manned and unmanned platforms, weapons, sensors, and electronic warfare systems interact over robust satellite and tactical communications links. These approaches offer flexible and powerful options to the warfighter, but the complexity introduced by the increase in the number of employment alternatives creates a battle management challenge.
For the past 100 years of mechanized warfare, protection for ground-based armored fighting vehicles and their occupants has boiled down almost exclusively to a simple equation: More armor equals more protection. Weapons’ ability to penetrate armor, however, has advanced faster than armor’s ability to withstand penetration. As a result, achieving even incremental improvements in crew survivability has required significant increases in vehicle mass and cost.
The goal of the DARPA Launch Challenge is to demonstrate responsive and flexible space launch capabilities from the burgeoning industry of small launch providers. For nearly 60 years, the nation’s space architecture has been built around exquisite systems that are launched by large, expensive boosters. The development cycle with the systems is tedious, with a process driven by a desire to reduce risk, rather than deliver timely capabilities.