Small satellite leader Blue Canyon Technologies completes CDR for DARPA Blackjack Program

By incorporating commercial sector advances in low-Earth orbit (LEO), including designs used for LEO broadband internet service, the goal of the Blackjack program is to demonstrate that a constellation of LEO satellites meets U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) performance and payload requirements, at a significantly lower cost, with shorter design cycles and with easier and more frequent technology upgrades.

Small satellite leader Blue Canyon Technologies completes CDR for DARPA Blackjack Program
Small satellite leader Blue Canyon Technologies completes CDR for DARPA Blackjack Program

Small satellite leader Blue Canyon Technologies completes CDR for DARPA Blackjack Program

Leading small satellite manufacturer and mission services provider Blue Canyon Technologies, Inc. has announced that it has completed its critical design review (CDR) for the Blackjack Program, a military space capabilities demonstration being developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

By incorporating commercial sector advances in low-Earth orbit (LEO), including designs used for LEO broadband internet service, the goal of the Blackjack program is to demonstrate that a constellation of LEO satellites meets U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) performance and payload requirements, at a significantly lower cost, with shorter design cycles and with easier and more frequent technology upgrades. The Blackjack program aims to establish an economy of scale not previously available with current National Security Space (NSS) assets, which are large, costly and would take years to replace if degraded or destroyed.

“BCT is proud to have reached this new milestone in the development of the Blackjack program for DARPA,” said George Stafford, President, and CEO of Blue Canyon Technologies. “The completion of this CDR has instilled further confidence in our design and displayed more power capability than was initially expected. This not only reflects the hard work and expertise of the extremely talented team at BCT but also the great potential for the Blackjack program to reduce costs while maximizing performance capabilities and meeting payload requirements.”

The Blackjack program CDR took place over a two-day period at BCT’s Satellite Constellation Factory in Lafayette, Colorado. It was conducted both virtually, as well in person, while in complete accordance with appropriate COVID-19 safety precautions to keep team members from each organization safe.

With approximately 40 engineers and scientific partners participating, BCT was able to demonstrate the maturity of the X-SAT Saturn-class bus design, validating the design and capabilities of the system in support of the Blackjack program. The CDR completes the third milestone, which will culminate in the first two flight buses being delivered to DARPA for payload integration in August 2021.

The DARPA contract has an initial award value of $14.2 million with a total potential value of $99.4 million if all options are exercised. Now that the final design of the multi-mission bus has been completed, BCT will begin procurement for the build of the first four satellites. The customized X-SAT bus will include state-of-the-art electric propulsion, a robust power system, command, and data handling, RF communications, and dedicated payload interfaces capable of hosting several different DoD payloads. The spacecraft will be delivered on a rapid timeline to support the critical DARPA demonstration schedule, with the first spacecraft to be delivered in mid-2021.