WASHINGTON — The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency awarded Northrop Grumman a $13.3 million contract to provide positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) payloads for the Blackjack program.

Blackjack is a DARPA project to demonstrate the military utility of small satellites in low Earth orbit to provide communications, missile warning and PNT. Northrop Grumman’s contract was awarded April 28, according to sam.gov.

The company will supply two payloads that broadcast a new signal that is not dependent on the Global Positioning System. 

“Northrop Grumman’s software-defined PNT technology will offer military users an agile new signal from low Earth orbit that is not dependent on existing satellite navigation systems,” Nicholas Paraskevopoulos, the company’s chief technology officer and sector vice president of emerging capabilities development, said May 6 in a statement.

The company develops PNT systems at facilities in Linthicum Heights, Maryland, and Woodland Hills, California.

Paraskevopoulos said “assured PNT is needed not only for traditional missions like force projection and joint operations, but also for emerging autonomous and distributed missions. We are demonstrating what’s possible from a highly connected, resilient and persistent LEO constellation.”

This is Northrop Grumman’s first Blackjack award. DARPA is assembling a growing team of suppliers for Blackjack with a goal to start launching demonstration satellites in 2022. Blue Canyon Technologies and Telesat provide satellite buses. Raytheon is the supplier of missile-warning payloads. SEAKR Engineering is developing the Pit Boss autonomous computing system. Lockheed Martin is the satellite integrator. 

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...