The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has awarded Raytheon $37 million to develop sensors for Project Blackjack, according to a June 12 contract announcement.

Project Blackjack is a demonstration constellation being developed and fielded by DARPA to show the military utility of an on-orbit mesh network made up of satellites operating in low Earth orbit. The agency expects to launch flight demonstration satellites this fall before beginning to launch the full constellation of about 20 Blackjack satellites in 2021.

As part of the June 12 contract, Raytheon will research, develop and demonstrate Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) sensors that will be integrated into the Blackjack constellation and the Pit Boss system, an autonomous, space-based command and data processor which is the brains behind Blackjack. Work is expected to be completed in April 2023.

DARPA has awarded a number of Blackjack contracts as it prepares for its first Blackjack launches in 2021. In April, the agency selected SEAKR Engineering as the prime contractor to develop Pit Boss. That same month, Lockheed Martin announced that it has been awarded a contract for the first phase of satellite integration for Blackjack, which entails defining and managing interfaces between the bus, payload and Pit Boss.

Blue Canyon Technologies was awarded a $14 million contract for phase 2 and 3 work on the Blackjack buses on June 9, and on June 10 was issued a $16 million contract for phases 2 and 3 work on the payload side of Blackjack. Blue Canyon had received a phase 1 award for spacecraft design work in 2018. The payload effort is expected to be wrapped up in March 2021, with the bus work completed in June 2021.

Nathan Strout covers space, unmanned and intelligence systems for C4ISRNET.

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