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Telesat Receives Further DARPA Blackjack Contract for Telesat LEO Demonstration 

By | October 14, 2020

DARPA Blackjack Satellites. Photo: DARPA

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Telesat a further contract worth $18.3 million to develop and test it’s Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) constellation as part of DARPA’s Blackjack program. This builds off a Telesat/DARPA contract awarded in 2018 for system engineering and interface definition. Blackjack is a program to leverage commercial LEO technology for a global high-speed network for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). 

DARAP contracted subsidiary Telesat U.S. Services to develop and demonstrate in-orbit testing for Optical Inter-Satellite Links (OISLs) capability. Telesat said in a Wednesday announcement that in Phase 2, it plans to deliver two spacecraft buses to DARPA in less than one year for a “risk reduction” flight to test OISL communications with government payloads in orbit and to demonstrate OISL interoperability with different hardware. 

Telesat said additional Telesat LEO spacecraft may be procured to fully populate the Blackjack constellation, representing up to $175.6 million in contract awards. 

“This next phase of the Blackjack program will showcase the powerful capabilities that commercial LEO networks bring to a hybrid architecture for government space communications,” said Don Brown, general manager, Telesat U.S. Services. “With OISLs and advanced networking native to the Telesat LEO constellation architecture, we are uniquely positioned to deliver interoperable mesh connectivity between government and commercial constellations. We look forward to continuing our work with DARPA to prove out the game-changing nature of hybrid commercial-government networks.”