DARPA satellites destroyed at the processing station prior to the launch of SpaceX

DARPA satellites destroyed at the processing station prior to the launch of SpaceX

At the spacecraft processing plant, two satellites from Defense Advanced Research Projects Organization that was a component of an anticipated SpaceX rideshare flight were destroyed, the agency reported on January 6. The spacecraft is a component of the Blackjack initiative, an attempt to launch a constellation of tiny satellites in the low-Earth orbit, headed by DARPA as well as the Air Force Research Laboratory. This mishap occurred at the launch processing plant of SpaceX in the Cape Canaveral, Florida, on January 4. As a portion of the Transporter-1 mission, the SpaceX’s first dedicated rideshare mission slated to start January 14, DARPA’s satellites were slated to commence to orbit on the Falcon 9 rocket.

For business and government clients, the Transporter-1 rideshare flight can carry hundreds of tiny satellites to the sun-synchronous orbit. These satellites are a component of the Blackjack initiative, an attempt to launch a constellation of minor satellites in the low-Earth orbit, headed by DARPA Agency, the Space Development Agency as well as the Air Force Research Laboratory. In a report to SpaceNews on January 6, Stephen Forbes, the DARPA Program Manager said that the satellites suffered damage, as well as the agency, is determining the next measures. “At present, DARPA and its government collaborators are working with the launch provider, SpaceX to implement their underlying cause, corrective measures process as well as assess the satellite damage,” Forbes stated. 

The two satellites are tests identified as Mandrake 1 as well as Mandrake 2, which are identified by DARPA as “risk reduction” flights to demonstrate sophisticated technology such as automation of the satellite constellation as well as optical inter-satellite links before Blackjack satellites are eventually deployed. The mishap occurred when the satellites were being mounted and the payload separation mechanism was mistakenly released, as per an industry source. SpaceX did not reply to concerns about what sparked the incident.

One of the Blackjack program’s aims is to create satellites for not more than $2 million for every payload at a cheaper cost than conventional military spacecraft by making use of sensors that can be produced in large numbers to suit several buses from multiple providers. Several sensor payloads are being considered, such as Collins Aerospace and Raytheon’s overhead persistent infrared (OPIR); Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, Trident, as well as Systems & Technology Research’s radio frequency systems; Northrop Grumman’s location, navigation, as well as timing; SA Photonics’ optical inter-satellite links; and L3Harris’s electro-optical infrared.

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