SSC awards space laser comms prototype contracts

On June 17, The United States Space Force’s Space Systems Command (SSC) awarded four contracts to Blue Origin, CACI International Inc., General Atomics, and Viasat to develop space laser communication terminal prototypes as the first of three phases in the $100 million Enterprise Space Terminal (EST) program.

The EST program, part of SSC’s Space Domain Awareness and Combat Power Program Executive Office, 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). 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.

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.

“The 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,” according to John Kirkemo, senior materiel leader of SSC’s Advanced Communications Acquisition Delta. “These terminals will implement a common waveform so all satellites carrying these terminals can talk to each other. This is important as the network of satellites carrying EST compatible terminals will provide diverse communication paths for data that is critical to our national security and our way of life.”

The four contracts were awarded through SSC’s Space Enterprise Consortium (SpEC), created to bridge the cultural gap between military buyers and commercial space startups and small businesses through Other Transaction Authorities.

“SpEC was specifically initiated to use competition to maximize innovation and drive down costs as we’re doing with the EST Program,” said Col. Bryon McClain, program executive officer for SSC Space Domain Awareness and Combat Power. “Over the past seven years, SpEC has enabled the DoD to leverage both traditional and non-traditional vendors to provide new capability for our nation.”

Source: SSC

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