August 10, 2022
ARLINGTON, Va. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) chose 11 teams for the first phase of what it’s calling the “Space-Based Adaptive Communications Node” or Space-BACN program, which intends to build a low-cost, reconfigurable optical communications terminal that adapts to most optical intersatellite link standards, translating between diverse satellite constellations and creating what the agency dubbed an “internet” of low-Earth-orbit (LEO) satellites.
Currently used military/government and commercial/civil satellite constellations are unable to talk with each other.
DARPA chose teams from academia and large and small commercial companies, including multiple performers awarded first-time contracts with the Department of Defense (DoD).
In the first technical area, a team comprised of CACI, Inc.; MBRYONICS; and Mynaric are tasked with developing a flexible, low size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C) optical aperture that couples into single-mode fiber. In the second technical area, a team (II-VI Aerospace and Defense, Arizona State University, and Intel Federal) will develop a reconfigurable optical modem that supports up to 100 Gb/sec on a single wavelength. These teams will also collaborate to define the interface between their respective system components.
In a third technical area, the agency selected five groups to identify critical command-and-control elements required to support cross-constellation optical intersatellite link communications and develop the schema necessary to interface between Space-BACN and commercial partner constellations. The entities in this third area are SpaceX, Telesat, SpaceLink, Viasat, and Kuiper Government Solutions.
Work on Phase 1 of Space-BACN will take place over 14 months, concluding with a preliminary design review for the first two technical areas, as well as a fully defined interface between system components; DARPA intends that selected performers in the first two technical areas will then participate in an 18-month Phase 2 to develop engineering design units of the optical terminal components, while performers in the third technical area will continue to evolve the schema to function in more challenging and dynamic scenarios.