DARPA Satellites Damaged in Processing Accident, Removed from SpaceX Transporter-1 Rideshare Mission

When a SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off with dozens of satellites aboard on the Transporter-1 rideshare mission later this month, it will do so without a pair of experimental satellites from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

SpaceNews reports the two small satellites that make up DARPA’s Mandrake 2 mission were damaged during a pre-launch processing mishap at SpaceX processing facility in Florida.

According to an industry source the mishap happened while the satellites were being stacked and the payload separation system was accidentally released. SpaceX did not respond to questions on what caused the mishap.

The Mandrake 2 satellites are equipped with optical inter-satellite links for broadband data transmission. DARPA is testing this technology as the possible basis of future optically meshed computer networks in low Earth orbit.

The satellites are part of DARPA’s Blackjack program, which is focused on developing advanced space technologies.

SpaceX’s Transporter-1 rideshare mission is now scheduled for Jan. 21 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The Falcon 9 will deploy the payloads into sun-synchronous orbit.