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SEAKR conducts optical communication for DARPA’s Mandrake 2 satellites

Raytheon Technologies’ wholly owned subsidiary SEAKR Engineering has successfully conducted demonstrations under the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Blackjack project.

The company showcased on-orbit optical inter-satellite links between DARPA’s two Mandrake 2 satellites.

As part of the first demonstration, around 280GB of data were transferred at a 114km range in a period exceeding40 minutes.

SEAKR Engineering and Blue Canyon Technologies president Jeff Schrader said: “This was a demonstration not only of optical communications in space but also a closer look at some of the foundational building blocks needed for a networked space architecture.”

In June 2021, DARPA deployed two Mandrake 2 spacecraft under the Blackjack project to demonstrate advanced laser communications.

Known as Able and Baker, the two satellites were equipped with SA Photonics optical links onboard an Astro Digital bus.

As the prime contractor, SEAKR led the system integration of both satellites while satellite software required for operating the vehicles was provided by ASI.

SEAKR was also responsible to repair and rebuild the satellites and then deliver them for the launch in less than six months.

This was after the two satellites were damaged during a pre-launch incident. The launch was originally scheduled for January 2021.

SEAKR Mandrake programme manager Scott Lowery said: “This recent on-orbit demonstration was the culmination of several organisations working in tandem to solve a number of challenges.”

Furthermore, SEAKR led the DARPA’s Mandrake 1 programme, which has already completed its mission by establishing Technical Readiness Level 9 for some of the highest performing CPUs.

All the processing elements together act as the building blocks for DARPA’s Pitboss and future battle management command control and communication (C3) systems.

CT Bureau

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