DARPA is developing a prototype line of cost-effective reconnaissance satellites that will operate in low Earth orbit as part of the Blackjack program. Credit: DARPA

WASHINGTON — The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency increased Lockheed Martin’s contract for satellite integration work for the Blackjack program by $27.3 million, the agency announced April 22.

DARPA a year ago selected Lockheed Martin as the satellite integrator for Blackjack, a project to demonstrate a network of  small satellites in low Earth orbit for military communications, missile warning and navigation. 

The company had previously received a $13.1 million contract for Blackjack satellite integration work. The $27.3 million modification for Phase 2 of the program brings the total value of the contract to $40.4 million.

DARPA has ordered 10 buses so far from Blue Canyon Technologies. Raytheon Technologies is providing missile warning infrared sensors. The agency last month awarded SEAKR Engineering a $60.4 million contract to develop the Pit Boss data processing system for satellites to operate autonomously.  

Lockheed Martin will do the assembly and integration of buses, payloads  and the Pit Boss data processor at its manufacturing facility in Sunnyvale, California. The new contract modification includes the integration of the various Blackjack components into a launch vehicle for on-orbit testing. 

The entire Blackjack constellation is projected to have as many as 20 satellites. The technology developed in the Blackjack program also is supporting the Pentagon’s Space Development Agency which is working on a large network of communications and missile-warning satellites  in low Earth orbit. 

Julie Pecson, Lockheed Martin’s Blackjack program director, said the first four spacecraft are scheduled to launch in June 2022. 

“Lockheed Martin looks forward to the continued partnership with DARPA and the Blackjack performers to develop this transformational program,” Pecson said in a statement to SpaceNews.

“This effort demonstrates Lockheed Martin’s approach to rapid satellite integration and validates DARPA’s ambitious program goals for Blackjack,” Pecson said. 

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...