Orbion Space Technology has revealed a strategic manufacturing deal with Blue Canyon Technologies (BCT) to provide the propulsion system for the first production run of their satellites designated for DARPA’s Blackjack satellite constellation program.
DARPA awarded Blue Canyon a $14.1 million contract in June of 2020 to begin manufacturing the first 4 of the planned satellites for the Blackjack program, which will be based on Blue Canyon’s X-SAT microsatellite bus. Orbion will provide onboard electric propulsion for the spacecraft with the Orbion Aurora Hall-effect thruster system for small satellites built and manufactured in the United States.
DARPA’s contract with Blue Canyon has options for DARPA to buy up to 20 Blue Canyon satellites for a total of $99.4 million. The spacecraft will support DARPA’s program objectives for military relevant payloads.
The goal of the Blackjack Program is to demonstrate that a constellation of LEO satellites meets Department of Defense (DoD) performance and payload requirements, at a significantly lower cost, with shorter design cycles and with easier and more frequent technology upgrades. The spacecraft will be delivered on a rapid timeline to support the critical DARPA demonstration schedule with the first spacecraft to be delivered in mid-2021.
“DARPA’s goal with Blackjack is to capitalize on commercial-sector space advances and use them for military utility,” said Brad King, CEO, Orbion Space Technologies. “Orbion’s philosophy is to offer propulsion systems that are priced for commercial customers, but that retain the high-reliability required by government users, and this is a perfect fit for Blackjack. We’re excited to play a vital role in this program. Our mass manufacturing technique will offer economies of scale previously unavailable.”
“We are very excited to have Orbion as a partner for this effort,” said BCT’s Program Manager, Bill Schum. “Orbion has fully embraced the challenge we have in front of us to produce and integrate a highly capable propulsion system, in a small form-factor, with affordable reliability.”