WASHINGTON — Blue Canyon Technologies delivered the first of 10 satellite buses the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency ordered in 2020 for its Blackjack experiment in low Earth orbit.

SEAKR Engineering also announced Sept. 7 it has delivered the first two so-called Pit Boss mission data processing payloads that will fly on Blackjack satellites. The Pit Boss artificial-intelligence technology would allow the Blackjack constellation to operate autonomously. 

Both Blue Canyon and SEAKR are subsidiaries of Raytheon Technologies.

DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office started the Blackjack program in 2018 to demonstrate a mesh network of satellites in space connected by optical links. The first Blackjack launch had been planned for 2021 but the schedule has moved to the right due to supply chain problems.

Blue Canyon under the DARPA contract is producing Saturn-class small satellite buses  which can carry payloads up to 200 kilograms. Blackjack is projected to have 12 satellites: 10 from Blue Canyon and two from Telesat

Jeff Schrader, president of Blue Canyon Technologies and SEAKR Engineering, said the Saturn bus shipped to DARPA was the first one to achieve environmental testing. 

The company said it plans to ship the remaining nine buses later this year. Blue Canyon manufactures satellites in Lafayette and Boulder, Colorado; and SEAKR makes payloads in Centennial, Colorado. The payload integration is done by Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale, California.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...