The next era of satellite communications is upon us in the form of low-earth-orbit constellations aiming to revolutionize personal connectivity, according to satellite experts. These new satellite swarms are being driven by technology innovations simultaneously with the growth of less-expensive launch services. The result will be an explosion in the number and type of orbiters serving their earthbound hosts while raising the bar for support technologies on the ground.
Raytheon Co., El Segundo, California, has been awarded a $37,442,009 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the Blackjack program, Phase 2. This contract provides for the research, development, and demonstration of an Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) payload for Blackjack. Raytheon will complete design, fabricate, test, and deliver in quantity space-flight ready OPIR payloads capable of integrating with multiple Blackjack buses and Pit Boss subsystem supporting an on-orbit constellation level demonstration. Work will be performed in El Segundo, California, with an estimated completion date of April 2023.
The four-month-old U.S. Space Force is setting its priorities for the future, and part of that is a plan to leverage key partnerships with allies, the intelligence community and the commercial space industry. And while partnerships with the commercial space industry in regard to launch services have been quite visible, the Space Force is set to work more frequently with the producers of small communications satellite systems, said Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, USAF, chief of operations, U.S. Space Force.
The Army is two years into its aggressive front to modernize and shift to be a more agile, lethal force, moving away from counterinsurgency warfare. One of the service’s major priorities as part of that modernization effort is to create an integrated tactical network that can support soldiers fighting anywhere at anytime against near-peer adversaries in a contested environment, explained Maj. Gen.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is seeing initial success from its Blackjack program, according to Paul “Rusty” Thomas, program manager. The research agency is developing a subset of a constellation, 20 low Earth orbit (LEO) globe-to-globe satellites, to demonstrate a new way of building out space systems.
“We are looking at how we might do space architecture differently,” said Thomas. “We want to limit the integration time, so we can actually get to the point where a payload might not even know what bus it is going to go on, and you can actually think of the payload as the mission.”
With limited land mass, the country of Israel must look to space to help gird its defensive capabilities. The nation's interest in military space is obvious-to optimize battlefield and security effectiveness using space-based assets. The head of the Israeli Air Force Space Branch is Lt. Col. Oren Barda, IAF. He notes why Israel considers space to be critical to international security:
First, we must stand guard for any possible threats. Space enables long-range surveillance, space enables working in neutral territory, and space is a technology and economic booster to industry.