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Airbus Defense and Space has been awarded a contract from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a satellite bus in support of the BLACKJACK programme, the company announced on 14 January.

DARPA describes the BLACKJACK programme as an ‘architecture demonstration,’ intending to show the military utility of global low-earth orbit (LEO) constellations and mesh networks of lower size, weight and cost. DARPA wants to buy commercial satellite buses and pair them with military sensors and payloads. The bus drives each satellite by generating power, controlling attitude, providing propulsion, transmitting spacecraft telemetry and providing general payload accommodation, including mounting locations for the military sensors.

Airbus has previously co-invested hundreds of millions of dollars in high-rate manufacturing technology and supply chain logistics to build large constellations of small satellites,” commented Airbus Defense and Space, Inc.’s Director of US Space Programs, Tim Deaver. “Airbus is committed to growing manufacturing capability in the US and our government customers can leverage this commercial capability to develop low-earth orbit constellations to complement large existing systems.”

This contract positions Airbus Defense and Space, Inc., of Herndon, VA and its strategic joint venture partner, OneWeb Satellites, of Exploration Park, FL, as the ideal service providers for BLACKJACK.

High production rates and design-to-cost management techniques enable OneWeb Satellites to offer low-cost constellation solutions for the US government and current customers. Constellations of inexpensive satellites permit wide scale disaggregated architectures, enhancing survivability across many different mission areas. The company is pioneering new value propositions in space and is leading the design and manufacturing of ultra-high performing satellites at high-volumes. “We have created a game changer with our overall design, supply chain and production system,” explained company CEO, Tony Gingiss. “Our team is transforming the space industry and we are in the midst of demonstrating we can deliver on our promises.”

OneWeb Satellites brings to bear capabilities which dramatically lower the cost and shorten acquisition timelines for customers thanks to a modular design and agile serial production of satellites.

The BLACKJACK programme could result in more survivable and effective satellite constellations. (Image: Airbus Defense & Space)

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