Phase 1: Space-Based Adaptive Communications Node Initiative Teams Chosen

DARPA has chosen the winning 11 teams for Phase 1 of the Space-Based Adaptive Communications Node initiative (Space-BACN.) Space-BACN will seek to develop a low-cost, reconfigurable optical communications terminal that can translate between various satellite constellations and conform to the majority of optical inter-satellite link standards. Space-BACN will establish an “internet” of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites in order to achieve seamless communication between military/government and commercial/civil satellite constellations.

The chosen teams represent a diverse group of public and private enterprises.

“We intentionally made making a proposal to our Space-BACN solicitations as easy as possible because we wanted to tap into both established defense companies and the large pool of innovative small tech companies, many of which don’t have the time or resources to figure out complicated government contracting processes,” said Greg Kuperman, Space-BACN program manager in DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office. “We used other transactions and were very pleased with diversity of organizations that responded, and quality of proposals. After a successful Phase 0 where we got to see the teams sprint to put together an initial architecture design for Space-BACN, I’m excited to get to work in Phase 1 building the actual system.”

The first technical area will involve CACI, MBRYONICS, and Mynaric working to develop a flexible, low-size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C) optical aperture that couples into single-mode fiber. The second area will have II-VI Aerospace and Defense,  Arizona State University, and Intel Federal working on a reconfigurable optical modem that supports up to 100 Gbps on a single wavelength. The third technical area is Identifying key command and control components needed to facilitate cross-constellation optical inter-satellite link communications and provide the interface between Space-BACN and commercial partner constellations which will be the responsibility of SpaceX, Telesat, SpaceLink, Viasat, and Kuiper Government Solutions (KGS).

This first phase will last 14 months and is expected to complete a preliminary design review for the first two technical areas and a fully defined interface between system components. The third technical area will create the cross-constellation command and control schema and do a connectivity demo in a simulated setting to validate the schema for an initial scenario.