DARPA selects Telesat’s LEO system to support Blackjack program

DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has awarded a contract to Canada-based Telesat under which Telesat will undertake investigations that could lead to the Department of Defense (DoD) making greater use of commercial low earth orbit satellite constellations, such as Telesat’s LEO system, for DoD’s future space-based communications. The investigations will include evaluating the advantages of DoD using the same spacecraft buses as those Telesat will use in its LEO constellation and having these future DoD spacecraft link to Telesat’s LEO constellation via laser-based communications. The result of these investigations could lead to DoD using Telesat’s LEO system for its global broadband connectivity needs, the company announced November 27.

The award to Telesat was made by DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO) under its Blackjack program. Blackjack is an architecture demonstration of a proliferated small satellite constellation in Low Earth Orbit to provide global persistence, low latency communications, and rapid technology refresh. This will be accomplished by leveraging commercial space technologies including commoditized spacecraft buses, ground infrastructure, and user segments at unprecedented costs.

Telesat will work with its sub-contractor Leidos (NYSE: LDOS) to complete required deliverables under Telesat’s DARPA contract. Telesat will leverage Leidos’s experience working with government customers in creating cutting-edge emerging technologies and transition programs from R&D to fielding, including numerous programs with DARPA.

“Telesat is developing its LEO constellation to make revolutionary advances in broadband performance from space,” said Don Brown, Telesat’s general manager, Government Services. “DARPA is exploring a ‘pivot to LEO’ for future DoD space missions and we expect that Blackjack will confirm the economy, resiliency and power of these new space architectures. This project has significant implications for improving global security while reducing costs to DoD and US taxpayers. Telesat looks forward to supporting DARPA as it works to achieve these goals.”

Telesat’s LEO constellation will offer economies of scale that have previously been unavailable for DoD’s communications needs, along with superior capacity, speed, security and resiliency with latency as good or better than the most advanced terrestrial networks. Telesat LEO will serve the entire globe and become a core component in satisfying many of the world’s most challenging communications requirements, including the provision of a highly robust and secure broadband infrastructure that can support future defense operations. In August, Telesat announced it has selected two contractor teams to further develop system designs for its LEO constellation. One of the teams is a consortium of Thales Alenia Space and Maxar Technologies, owner of SSL. The other team is led by Airbus Defence and Space.

Source: Telesat