Airbus & Partner OneWeb Win DARPA Contract to Support Blackjack Program

HERNDON, Va., USA, 14 January 2019 – Airbus Defense and Space Inc. has been awarded a contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a satellite bus in support of the Blackjack program.

DARPA describes the Blackjack program as an architecture demonstration intending to show the military utility of global low-earth orbit 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,” said Tim Deaver, Director of US Space Programs at Airbus Defense and Space, Inc. “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 U.S. government and current customers. Constellations of inexpensive satellites permit wide scale disaggregated architectures enhancing survivability across many different mission areas.

OneWeb Satellites is pioneering new value propositions in space. They are 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,” said Tony Gingiss, CEO, OneWeb Satellites. “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 OneWeb Satellites satellite manufacturing facility in Florida is the latest step in Airbus’ continued and long-standing commitment to growth in U.S. manufacturing, job creation and investment.

This facility, which will ultimately support thousands of jobs and follows the opening of our U.S. Manufacturing Facility for A320 aircraft in Mobile, Alabama, from which we delivered our first aircraft in 2016. An A220 assembly line on the same site in Alabama will break ground in January of 2019.

With our extensive network of U.S. suppliers, Airbus is the largest consumer of U.S. aerospace and defense goods in the world – buying more than any other company or even country. Airbus invested $16.5 billion with U.S. companies in 2017, supporting 275,000 American jobs.

About Airbus Americas

Airbus is a global leader in aeronautics, space and related services. In 2017 Airbus generated over $48 billion in aircraft and space related expenditures in the U.S and supported over 275,000 jobs in over 40 states. Airbus offers the most comprehensive range of passenger airliners from 100 to more than 600 seats.  Airbus is also a leader in military aircraft providing tanker, combat, transport and mission aircraft, as well as one of the world’s leading space companies. In helicopters, Airbus provides the most efficient civil and military rotorcraft solutions worldwide.

  • windbourne

    Again, this is being done the WRONG WAY.

  • Larry J

    Yes, because anything you disagree with is the wrong way.

  • Tom Billings

    So, just what makes it “Wrong”with this team?

    It has an established firm already focused on mass-producing series of satellites, …and it has a New Space company already learning about operating multi-satellite constellations.

    Or is it something else that is “WRONG”?

  • windbourne

    The issue is that they are building a single unit sat, which then has re-fueling. The idea of re-fueling indicates that they want the sats to continue on, past a certain time. Yet, most of the sats fail NOT due to running out of fuel, but for a number of other reasons, esp. losing positional gyros.

    These should be broken into 2-3 units and then docked together. By having an easy way to replace an entire motor/nav unit, it means that the payload can be continued to used.
    This approach also allows for different companies to update the motor/nat unit so that they compete. Imagine if multiple companies such as ULA, raytheon produced several different size of back-ends, while small companies can focus on payloads? DoD needs some unique payloads that are only available for them. If the company can focus just on that, and then buy the best rated/lowest cost back-end, they can get moving quickly.

    THis is similar to what Blackjack wants to do. The difference is that with black jack, you buy a case, which has the motor/nav/etc and then hope that it will work great for all that time. If any failure OTHER than running out of fuel, then they are sunk.
    With the split approach, if the back-end fails, it can be replaced.
    Likewise, assume that payload fails, or comm fails. Blackjack has no way to dealing with the sat. It is now just a dead payload, that can be plucked.
    WIth the split approach, if dead, then it is possible to change the motor and then send the payload back to earth to burn up.

    BTW, 1-web winning this is not a big deal due to the team.
    Both 1-web and starlink sats will be used by the feds to carry sensors/comms.
    Im sure that China and Russia know this.

  • Tom Billings

    OK, …so it is that you want them to be doing something other than what the government has contracted them to do. That is coherent, then.

  • duheagle

    Yes. Not correct, mind you. But coherent.

  • windbourne

    Blackjack is a bad program. It only goes half way to what is needed.