NASA Robots Compete in DARPA’s Subterranean Challenge Final

Team CoSTAR, led by NASA’s JPL, will use autonomous robots with diverse methods of movement to compete in the complex underground environments of the SubT Challenge Final. One of the robots, NeBula-Spot, walks on four legs to explore hard-to-access locations. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Led by NASA JPL, Team CoSTAR will participate in the SubT final this week to demonstrate multi-robot autonomy in a series of tests in extreme environments.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Eight teams featuring dozens of robots from more than 30 institutions, including NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, will converge in a former Kentucky limestone mine from Sept. 21 to 24 to participate in a series of complex underground scenarios. The goal: to demonstrate cutting-edge robotic autonomy capabilities and compete for the chance to win $2 million.

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Northrop Grumman’s LEO Satellite Payload for DARPA Revolutionizes Positioning, Navigation and Timing

Northrop Grumman’s advanced, software-enabled positioning, navigation and timing payload has been developed to keep forces on target in difficult environments against advanced threats – even if the availability of existing satellite navigation systems are degraded or denied. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

LINTHICUM, Md. and WOODLAND HILLS, Calif. – Sept. 16, 2021 – The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Blackjack program has awarded Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) a contract for Phase 2 development of an advanced, software-defined positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) payload, with options to build units destined for space flight.

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Air Force Tasks Rhea Space Activity to Build Rapid-Response Lunar Communications Spacecraft

Rhea Scorpius Propulsive Burn (Credit: Rhea Space Activity)

RSA Investigates a Novel High-Thrust, High-Efficiency Propulsion System

WASHINGTON, July 19, 2021 (Rhea Space Activity PR) — As U.S. operations in space steadily move further away from Earth orbit, the rapidly growing ‘New Space’ company Rhea Space Activity (RSA) is pleased to announce that it has been selected by the United States Air Force (USAF) for a Phase I, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) 2021 Space Force Pitch Day award to investigate a bi-modal, solar-thermal propulsion system that would provide rapid repositioning capabilities for a future United State Space Force (USSF) deep space communications spacecraft.

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Blackjack Program Successfully Deploys Two Mandrake 2 Satellites

Mandrake 2 satellites (Credit: DARPA)

Achievement is key step toward realization of global high-speed space network

ARLINGTON, Va. (DARPA PR) — DARPA successfully deployed two satellites on June 30 as part of the SpaceX Transporter 2 launch. Both Mandrake 2 spacecraft, Able and Baker, 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.

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Space Development Agency Successfully Launches First Missions

WASHINGTON (SDA PR) — The Space Development Agency today announced the successful launch of its first two satellite missions, Mandrake II and Laser Interconnect Networking Communications System (LINCS) and the Prototype On-orbit Experimental Testbed (POET) payload, on June 30 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla.

The launch, supported by SpaceX’s Transporter 2, an all-rideshare Falcon 9 mission, carried aboard SDA’s first two sets of experimental satellites, designed and built with government and industry partners, to gather data on optical communication terminal (OCT) performance in low-Earth orbit (LEO), along with the POET payload to demonstrate on-orbit data fusion, proving out core capabilities required for SDA’s future development efforts.

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Sierra Space Provides Integration Services for New Nuclear Propulsion System as Part of DARPA’s DRACO Program

DRACO in orbit (Credit: Sierra Space)

LOUISVILLE, Colo., June 24, 2021 (Sierra Space PR) – Sierra Space, the new commercial space subsidiary of global aerospace and national security leader Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), will supply the propulsion components and integration services for a Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) system under a recent contract with General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS). GA-EMS and Sierra Space will develop and demonstrate an on-orbit NTP system for a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program called Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO).

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LeoStella Delivers First Satellite in Manufacture Agreement with Loft Orbital

TUKWILA, Wash., June 24, 20211 (LeoStella PR) – LeoStella, a specialized satellite constellation design and manufacturing company, delivered its first satellite to Loft Orbital Solutions Inc. (Loft Orbital). LeoStella delivered the “Yet Another Mission-3” (YAM-3) satellite to Cape Canaveral for an upcoming SpaceX launch. The YAM-3 satellite will host a variety of payloads, including a demonstration for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Blackjack program and an Internet of Things payload for Eutelsat. The satellite is part of a broader contract to build and integrate satellite buses for several upcoming Loft Orbital missions.

The delivery of this satellite demonstrates LeoStella’s ability to leverage its continuous manufacturing line of commercial satellites to respond to short-term mission needs.

“We have built a great partnership with Loft Orbital,” said Brian Rider, chief technology officer at LeoStella. “By pulling satellites off our production line, we are able to tailor them for Loft’s Payload Hub and get them delivered in less than half the time normally required for a satellite build cycle. Loft has a unique approach to ‘Make Space Simple’ for their customers. We are proud to be part of their ecosystem of enabling technologies and processes.” 

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Northrop Grumman and Intelsat Make History with Satellite Docking of Second Mission Extension Vehicle

An image of Intelsat 10-02 taken by MEV-2’s infrared wide field of view camera at 15m away. (Credit: SpaceLogistics)

DULLES, Va., April 12, 2021 (Northrop Grumman PR) – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) and the company’s wholly-owned subsidiary, SpaceLogistics LLC, have successfully completed the docking of the Mission Extension Vehicle-2 (MEV-2) to the Intelsat 10-02 (IS-10-02) commercial communications satellite to deliver life-extension services. The docking was completed at 1:34 p.m. EST.

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DARPA Selects Performers for Phase 1 of Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) Program

Credit: DARPA

Industry teams to develop propulsion design, spacecraft concepts for demonstrating on-orbit Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) system

ARLINGTON, Va. (DARPA PR) — DARPA has awarded contracts for the first phase of the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program. The goal of the DRACO program is to demonstrate a nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) system above low Earth orbit in 2025. The three prime contractors are General Atomics, Blue Origin, and Lockheed Martin.

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Stefanie Tompkins Appointed 23rd DARPA Director

Stefanie_Tompkins

Agency veteran brings skillset, drive to convert bold technology visions into new capabilities for nation

ARLINGTON, Va. (DARPA PR) — Stefanie Tompkins takes the reins today as the 23rd director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

With nearly eleven years of DARPA service under her belt, Tompkins, a former military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, has an exceptional understanding of the agency’s culture. From 2007 through 2017, she held multiple positions, including program manager and deputy director of the Strategic Technology Office, a systems-oriented technical office; DARPA chief of staff; and director of the Defense Sciences Office, a highly exploratory office that identifies and accelerates new technologies. In 2017 and into the beginning of 2018, she served as the acting deputy director of the agency.

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Orbital Construction: DARPA Pursues Plan for Robust Manufacturing in Space

Credit: DARPA

New program to develop designs and materials for building large structures on orbit and moon

ARLINGTON, Va. (DARPA PR) — As commercial space companies increase the cadence of successful rocket launches, access to space is becoming more routine for both government and commercial interests. But even with regular launches, modern rockets impose mass and volume limits on the payloads they deliver to orbit. This size constraint hinders developing and deploying large-scale, dynamic space systems that can adapt to changes in their environment or mission.

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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.

Small Satellite Leader Blue Canyon Technologies Completes CDR for DARPA Blackjack Program

BCT demonstrated maturity and capability of its X-SAT bus design which will enhance LEO communications for the U.S. Department of Defense

BOULDER, Colo. (Blue Canyon Technology PR) — Leading small satellite manufacturer and mission services provider Blue Canyon Technologies, Inc. (“BCT” or “Blue Canyon”) announced today that it has completed its critical design review (CDR) for the Blackjack Program, a military space capabilities demonstration being developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

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Biden Appoints Ellen Stofan to Lead NASA Agency Review Team

Ellen Stofan (Credit: Smithsonian Institution)
  • Former astronaut Pam Melroy and Kathryn Sullivan also named to review teams
  • Former XPRIZE vice president leads OSTP team

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

President-elect Joe Biden has appointed former NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan to lead the review team assigned to the space agency.

Stofan, a planetary scientist who became the first female director of the National Air and Space Museum in 2018, leads an eight-member team that includes former NASA astronaut Pam Melroy and former NASA chief scientist Waleed Abdalati.

Biden has also appointed Kathryn Sullivan, who was part of the first group of women recruited as NASA astronauts, to serve on the agency review team for the Department of Commerce.

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Telesat U.S. Services Awarded DARPA Contract for Blackjack Track B Research, Development and in-Orbit Demonstration with Telesat LEO

Telesat U.S. Services will deliver two spacecraft in less than one year to showcase the use of Optical Inter-Satellite Links in orbit for government requirements

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA, October 14, 2020 (Telesat U.S. Services PR) – Telesat U.S. Services, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of leading global satellite operator Telesat, has been awarded a contract by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) for the development and in-orbit demonstration of commercial low-Earth-orbit (LEO) spacecraft buses in a LEO constellation network with robust low-latency communications features as part of DARPA’s Blackjack program.

Following Telesat’s initial 2018 contract for system engineering and interface definition under the Blackjack Phase 1 program, Telesat U.S. Services will develop and demonstrate the Blackjack Phase 2/3 Track B technology, including in-orbit testing the capabilities of Optical Inter-Satellite Links (OISLs).  

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