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US Space Force Awards General Atomics, Blue Origin, Viasat, CACI Laser Terminal Prototype Contracts

By Frank Wolfe | June 18, 2024

      Via Satellite illustration.

      The U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command (SSC) said on June 17 that it has awarded laser communication terminal prototype contracts to General AtomicsBlue OriginCACI International Inc., and Viasat in the first of three phases of the $100 million Enterprise Space Terminal (EST) program.

      The awards came through SSC’s Space Enterprise Consortium (SpEC), created in 2017 to lower costs by widening the field of military space providers to commercial startups and small businesses.

      EST “aims to enable on-orbit crosslink compatibility among future space systems via the use of a standardized enterprise waveform implemented in a long-range space optical communications terminal that is low size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C),” SSC said. “ESTs are a key building block of the broader Space Data Network, which will build a space mesh network for resiliency and information path diversity.”

      Space Force’s Space Development Agency (SDA) has been a key mover in the development of anti-jamming, high data rate, space laser communications as a key part of SDA’s Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites in the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture.

      “The EST program leverages prior investment by the Department of Defense and commercial developers to operationalize a new enterprise waveform designed to communicate in the Beyond Low Earth Orbit (bLEO) regimes,” SSC said on June 17.

      John Kirkemo, senior materiel leader of SSC’s advanced communications acquisition Delta, said in the June 17 SSC statement that the four EST prototypes “will be a huge step forward for a future space mesh network across different orbital regimes ranging from Low-Earth Orbit to past the Geosynchronous Orbit regime.”

      “These terminals will implement a common waveform so all satellites carrying these terminals can talk to each other,” he said.

      This story was first published by Defense Daily