WASHINGTON — Raytheon received a $37.4 million contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for space-based early warning sensors for the Blackjack program, the agency announced June 12.

Blackjack is a program to demonstrate the utility of a constellation of small satellites in low Earth orbit for military communications and overhead coverage.

The contract awarded to Raytheon is for Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) payloads. The company has to produce and deliver by April 2023 two space-flight ready OPIR payloads that can be integrated with multiple Blackjack buses and with the Pit Boss system.

Pit Boss is an artificial intelligence on-board processor for autonomous operations being developed by SEAKR.

Raytheon is developing space-based early warning sensors for the U.S. Space Force under the Next-Generation OPIR program.

DARPA announced other Blackjack contracts earlier this week as the agency prepares to start launching satellites later this year or in early 2021.

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...