The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Funds Blackjack Phases 2 and 3 programs

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Funds Blackjack Phases 2 and 3 programs

Blackjack is a project to deploy a constellation of 20 satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) by 2022 and demonstrate that the LEO system can provide global high-speed communications.

Blue Canyon Technologies Inc., Boulder, Colorado, has been awarded a $14,183,250 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the Blackjack Track B (Bus) Phases 2 and 3 programs. Manufacturing facilities are in Boulder, Colorado, with an estimated completion date of June 2021. Fiscal 2020 research and development funds for $10,282,600 were obligated. DARPA, Arlington, Virginia, is the contracting activity (HR0011-20-C-0094).

On April 20, 2020, the DARPA granted Lockheed Martin a $5.8 million contract for satellite integration work for the Blackjack program, the company revealed on April 24, 2020.

On November 26, 2018, Blue Canyon Technologies (BCT) won a $1.54 million deal for Phase 1 – Architecture and Design of a spacecraft for the highly sought-after Blackjack Program, a military space capabilities demo developed by The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). BCT would design an ESPA-class micro-satellite operating state-of-the-art commoditized FleXbus spacecraft architecture. The spacecraft will feature BCT’s flight-proven integrated avionics and precise attitude control. BCT’s focus will be on the development of the systems requirements and preliminary designs, culminating in the Preliminary Design Review (PDR).

The basic blueprint of the Blackjack program is to research and display the critical technical components for manufacturing a global high-speed network platform in low Earth orbit (LEO) that would allow highly networked, resilient, and persistent U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) payloads.

Subsequent phases will cover detailed design up through a CDR, construction of two flight spacecraft, launch and demonstration of the first two spacecraft for six months, and finally, build and launch 18 additional satellites to complete a 20-spacecraft constellation demonstration by 2021.


Blue Canyon Technologies, Inc. is a privately held business founded in 2008 to produce high-performance, cheap solutions to space missions.

In addition to designing spacecraft for the Blackjack program, BCT is now supporting numerous successful missions with a cumulative total of 4 capsules, 11 attitude control systems, 25-star trackers, and 69 reaction wheels on-orbit. In conjunction with this recent on-orbit success,
BCT has expanded its satellite manufacturing facilities in Boulder, Colorado, to over 42,000 square feet. The new facility can house the growing demand for BCT high-performance, high-reliability spaceships, subsystems, and modules.

BCT’s novel state-of-the-art facility supports high-volume spacecraft manufacture, including constellations, by leveraging the latest cleanrooms, thermal vacuums, vibration, integration, and test know-hows. BCT won contracts for approximately 60 spacecraft, varying from 3U CubeSats to 200kg ESPA-class, for missions in LEO to GEO, for business, research, and Government clients.

Valerie Tricarico

Valerie Tricarico is a Security journalist specialized in C4ISR systems. She covers transnational security issues, such as international relations, terrorism, insurgency, state stability, organized crime, WMD proliferation and cybersecurity, as well as trends within OSINT analytics and news reporting on developments in the global intelligence community.