$14.1 million contract was awarded last month to the Blue Canyon Technologies to enable it to produce satellite buses for Blackjack program by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. This contract has the potential that it will allow DARPA to purchase up to 20 satellites at the cost of $99.4 million.
This will make the Blue Canyon the prime supplier of satellite buses for the DARPA’s Blackjack project. DARPA said the 20 satellites would be deployed by the end of 2022.
Other bus providers signed study contracts with DARPA, but only the Blue Canyon has worn the production contract. Blackjack program manager Rusty Thomas said that the reason for giving Blue Canyon the contact is to ensure the program meets its targeted deadlines. However, he said that the crucial concern is to make sure the satellite can run Blackjack’s command and be in a position to control software, which is called Pit Boss.
The deal allows the company to commence a “comprehensive system plan to make sure Pit Boss autonomy interfaces are well suited with the Blue Canyon’s current flight computer,” Thomas said. “Awarding the contract provides a better chance for consistent procurement of the bus components to help 2021 gather, integrate, assess, and launch programs.” He added.
The main aim of the DARPA is the Blackjack satellites to be scalable such that the new payloads are awarded without necessarily redesigning the bus. The reason behind this is to allow fast production and lowering the costs of the satellites as possible.
“We will produce Blackjack satellites at a new production facility in Lafayette, Colorado,” said William Schum, Blue Canyon’s program manager in Boulder, Colorado.
Schum says that in case DARPA employs all alternatives to purchase 20 satellites, it would make Blackjack the most significant contract won by Blue Canyon.
The satellites are built on 150-kilogram X-SAT microsatellite bus which the Blue Canyon produces for business use. “There is more custom-built since in Blackjack the most crucial thing is to ensure the cost remains down, and have the commercial bus and realize what it can do with the military payloads,” said Schum.
Schum says even if the mission is not that easy, there are various suppliers who are developing DoD payloads. He also sighted out the Pit Boss at-hand system is a crucial component.