LOS GATOS, Calif.−−The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) successfully deployed two satellites on June 30 as part of the SpaceX Transporter 2 launch. Both Mandrake 2 spacecraft, Able and Baker, hosted SA Photonics’ optical inter-satellite link (OISL) hardware, and are functioning well and progressing through checkout and commissioning. Conceived as an early risk-reduction flight for DARPA’s Blackjack program, the Mandrake 2 mission will prove out advanced laser communications technologies for a broad government stakeholder team that includes DARPA, Space Development Agency (SDA), Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate (AFRL/RV), and Office of the Secretary of Defense’s (OSD) Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) office.
During its on-orbit mission, Mandrake 2 will demonstrate the viability of low size, weight, power, and cost laser communications terminals that are interoperable. SA Photonics’ CrossBeam™ OISL terminals provide communication functionality across the current and upcoming LEO satellites from SDA and DARPA. “This constitutes a game-changing advancement and a critical enabler for proliferated space architectures,” said Stephen Forbes who is program manager of the Blackjack program in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. “Mandrake 2 has already successfully demonstrated a rapid satellite development timeline, since the Blackjack program moved from contract award to delivery of space vehicles at the launch site in less than nine months.”
The successful launch of Mandrake 2 represents the culmination of a rapid design and development effort by a large team of industry performers. In addition to SA Photonics’ OISLs, SEAKR Engineering was the prime contractor, Astro Digital built the satellite buses, Advanced Solutions wrote the flight software and supports mission operations, Maverick Space Systems performed integration and test analysis, as well as launch integration services, Lockheed Martin provided integration support and launch procurement, and SpaceX provided launch services as part of its SmallSat Rideshare Program.
Information courtesy of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency