Lockheed Martin will perform the first phase of satellite integration on Project Blackjack for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the company announced April 24.

With Project Blackjack, DARPA hopes to demonstrate the value of a proliferated constellation of low earth orbit satellites for the Department of Defense. And while Project Blackjack is expected to consist of just about 20 satellites, the lessons learned will feed into a constellation of hundreds.

From early on, the Space Development Agency has said that it planned to build off of the advances made with Project Blackjack for its own proliferated constellation, which will perform tasks ranging from beyond-line-of-sight targeting to tracking hypersonic weapons. The SDA’s current plan is to put 20 satellites on orbit in the summer of 2022, adding more and more in two year cycles until the agency’s constellation includes hundreds of satellites.

Under the $5.8 million contract, Lockheed Martin will define and manage interfaces between the bus, payload and Pit Boss, a system that will be able to process data collected by the satellites in space and disseminate that information to users on Earth without any human input. BAE Systems, SEAKR Engineering, Inc and Scientific Systems Company Incorporated were each awarded contracts in 2019 to design Pit Boss.

Lockheed Martin will also perform testbed validation of vehicle interfaces.

“Lockheed Martin has built and integrated a variety of payload types and sizes for every type of mission and we bring all of that experience to the Blackjack program,” said Sarah Reeves, vice president of missile defense programs at Lockheed Martin. “This is an exciting new approach to plug-n-play design for LEO and we are up for the challenge.”

Nathan Strout was the staff editor at C4ISRNET, where he covered the intelligence community.

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