DARPA prepares for internet of satellites

19 December 2022

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has made selections for its Space-Based Adaptive Communications Node (Space-BACN) program, which will create a low-cost, reconfigurable optical communications terminal to translate information between diverse satellite constellations. A Space-BACN satellite terminal will enable data to be sent anywhere around the planet at the speed of light.

DARPA is planning for a future where tens of thousands of satellites from multiple private sector organizations deliver broadband services from low Earth orbit (LEO). Space-BACN will create an ‘internet’ of satellites, enabling seamless communication between military/government and commercial satellite constellations. The program will facilitate collaboration among partners to ensure that the terminal is reconfigurable for interoperability among participating constellation providers.

There are three technical areas in the program.

Technical Area 1 (TA1) focuses on the development of an optical aperture for pointing acquisition and tracking and the optical transmit and receive functions. DARPA has selected CACI Inc., MBRYONICS and Mynaric for this area.

DARPA selected Intel for Technical Area 2 (TA2) along with II-VI Aerospace and Defense and Arizona State University to design a reconfigurable optical modem to support current and new communication standards and protocols for interoperability.

In Technical Area 3 (TA3), DARPA selected constellation providers – Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), Telesat, SpaceLink, Viasat and Kuiper Government Solutions (KGS) LLC (an Amazon subsidiary) – to identify critical command and control elements to support cross-constellation optical intersatellite link communications and develop the schema necessary to interface between Space-BACN and partner constellations.