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Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency DARPA is developing a prototype line of cost-effective reconnaissance satellites that will set up shop in low Earth orbit, as part of a program called Blackjack.
Image credit: DARPA The U.
And it takes a decade or so to develop each one, said Paul "Rusty" Thomas, of the Tactical Please click for source Office at the U.
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency DARPA.
The nation's current spy satellites, therefore, aren't new blackjack responsive to new technologies and new developments, and they represent "big, fat, juicy targets" to adversaries, Thomas said last week during a presentation with NASA's Future In-Space Operations New blackjack working group.
The agency has mounted awhich aims to new blackjack a network of 20 prototype spy satellites to low Earth orbit LEO in 2021.
Several companies plan to establish huge constellations in LEO in the next few years, to deliver cost-effective internet service to people around the globe.
SpaceX'sfor example, will feature thousands of individual satellites.
Blackjack will integrate reconnaissance and communications payloads into standard commercial satellite bodies known as buses and take advantage of the high launch rate required to loft the mega-constellations, Thomas said.
We're not going to be driving these companies," he said during the FISO presentation.
We want to take advantage of that launch and take advantage of all of those pieces.
Signal strength is about 1,300 times higher there than it is in geostationary orbit, Thomas said, and communications get down to Earth faster.
It's unclear at the moment which sensors will ride aboard the Blackjack satellites; program officials are currently evaluating payload and spacecraft-bus proposals, which were submitted before a June 6 deadline.
The program will also soon start soliciting proposals for other aspects of the program, such as software that will give the satellites high levels new blackjack autonomy, Thomas said.
But we can make some informed guesses, based on what DARPA envisions the LEO constellation doing.
For example, the new constellation will likely improve U.
These duties will be dispersed among the various craft, he added.
DARPA may end up selecting dozens of different payloads, but each individual satellite — which will likely weigh between 220 lbs.
Blackjack is a pathfinder, not an end in itself.
If the prototype network works as planned, the U.
This larger network could be up and running as early as 2022, he added.
And there will be launches regularly for years to come thereafter.
The military would like to swap out a quarter or so of the LEO satellites every year to keep the constellation up to date with the latest gear, Thomas said.
The result should be an extremely capable, fast-reacting global reconnaissance network that's far less vulnerable to attack or disruption, he added.
That resilience is an important consideration, given the growing anti-satellite expertise of nations such as New blackjack and Russia.
Space is part of Future US Inc, an international media group and leading digital new blackjack.
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