DARPA Rushes To Develop "Constellation Of Low-Earth Orbit Spy Satellites" Before Next Space Wars

The Pentagon’s research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), will start assessing bids this week from space industry vendors as it wants to disrupt the military space business.

DARPA last week published a broad agency announcement (HR001118S0032) for the Blackjack program to develop and demonstrate a low earth orbit (LEO) constellation of spy satellites that provides persistent global coverage.

DARPA recently launched the unclassified program known as Blackjack with the intent of developing low-cost space payloads and commoditized satellite buses with low size, weight, power, and cost.

These new low-cost LEO satellites are expected to have much better capabilities compared with current spy satellites that operate at geosynchronous orbit (GEO).

“We have pretty capable small satellites,” DARPA Director Steven Walker told reporters earlier this year. “We have been saying this for 10 years: We want to see a shift to LEO [and] get capabilities in larger constellations.”

According to Military & Aerospace Electronics, the Blackjack program has three primary objectives:

  • “Develop payload and mission-level autonomy software with on-orbit distributed decision processors that can operate autonomously with on-orbit data processing, and perform shared tasks on-orbit;

  • Use advanced commercial manufacturing for military payloads and the spacecraft bus, including high-rate manufacturing, using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)-like parts, reduced screening and acceptance testing for individual spacecraft, and reduced expectations for spacecraft life; and

  •  Demonstrating satellite payloads in LEO that operate on par with current GEO systems with the spacecraft at costs of less than $6 million per satellite.”

SpaceNews said DARPA is attempting to make a smooth transition “from huge satellites in GEO to constellations of smaller and less expensive platforms in LEO.” The goal of this transition is to prepare for the coming space wars, as China and Russia have developed capabilities through direct energy weapons and missiles to destroy U.S. spy satellites.

DARPA wants to develop military space capabilities in low-Earth orbit. (Source: SpaceNews) 

DARPA explains how global surveillance and communications would be the primary mission for Blackjack-funded prototype constellations. The initial development and engineering work will shortly start after the winning bid is selected. In about three years time, DARPA could turn over prototype systems to the U.S. Air Force for further examination.

The program aims to attach secret military sensors and unspecified payloads to the low-cost LEO satellite buses. Over the next three phases, DARPA plans to dish out $117.5 million in contracts to eight bus or payload suppliers.

A DARPA spokesman told SpaceNews the agency at this stage of the program could not provide details on Blackjack.

According to DARPA’s solicitation, space industry vendors can offer satellite buses from existing or in-development production lines as long as they can “accommodate a wide range of military payload types without redesign or retooling of the production line for each payload.”

LEO constellation of spy satellites. (Source: SpaceNews)  

Military & Aerospace Electronics said the goal of Blackjack is to develop a constellation of “60-to-200-satellite constellation operating at altitudes of between 310.7 miles and 807.8 miles above the Earth’s surface.”

“One operations center will cover all government satellites and payloads, and the constellation will be able to operate without the operations center for 30 days. Blackjack payload data processing will be performed on-orbit without the assistance of ground data processing.

The program has three phases: defining bus and payload requirements; developing bus and payloads for a two satellite on-orbit demonstration; and demonstrating a two-plane system in low-Earth orbit for six months. A future Blackjack demonstration constellation will involve 20 spacecraft in two planes with one or more payloads on each satellite.”

At the helm of the Blackjack program is Fred Kennedy, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. Kennedy has been somewhat outspoken about the military space business and its lack of innovation. He has recently been vocal at defense conferences — criticizing the Pentagon “for embracing a culture of high performance and low risk that is now working against the military because it has given enemies ample time to develop counter-space weapons that could be used to disable or destroy U.S. satellites,” said SpaceNews.

A space war is coming - watch President Trump has he recently pushes the idea of adding ‘Space Force’ to U.S. military. 


NidStyles old naughty Tue, 06/05/2018 - 03:43 Permalink

Reduced screening and acceptance testing.


Skynet here we come. Who wants to put money on this network getting botted within days of the first satellite reaching orbit velocity?


Nothing like giving someone a platform to infiltrate and botnet into a semi-autonomous botnet which just might have enough connectivity to be mapped into a space borne artificial intelligence platform, accessible to whomever can map its security protocols first.


This has derp written all over it. 

Don’t tell me you’re going to use the security platform I think you’re going to use. For the love of everything decent, at least give the guy credit for developing the idea.

In reply to by old naughty

Heros Aengrod Tue, 06/05/2018 - 03:10 Permalink

LOL the US can't even profitably produce a car any more.  Rumors are that FCA (Fiat Chrysler) are going to eliminate the Chrysler brand.  Ford is shutting down all US car production except Mustang.  GM is still producing shitty and unprofitable cars like the Impala, for now.  Americans are dependent for their fix on German, Japanese and Korean cars.

And you have the Chutzpah to denigrate what is likely a still profitable Russian automobile industry, with likely the vast majority of components sourced from within Russia.

In reply to by Aengrod

HerpaDerp Heros Tue, 06/05/2018 - 04:15 Permalink

“ Rumors are that FCA (Fiat Chrysler) are going to eliminate the Chrysler brand. “



“Americans are dependent for their fix on German, Japanese and Korean cars.”

The us built 11 million cars in 2017. They imported half of that.

No one has ever flocked to Russian built cars.

Russia built 1.5 million cars in 2017.


Russians are a trashy people. They have never been high tech nor industrious. They copy everything like asians.


Most of their foriegn imports are Kia, hyundai, and vw.

”And you have the Chutzpah to denigrate what is likely a still profitable Russian automobile industry,”


Ford built 6.6 million cars in 2017. Thats more than 4 times the ruskies built. And one company.


 Ruskies don’t export cars. They are importers.

Lwith likely the vast majority of components sourced from within Russia.”



Russians are the niggers of Europe.

In reply to by Heros

Heros HerpaDerp Tue, 06/05/2018 - 06:08 Permalink

The US consumer market, including cars, has been underpinned by falling interest rates and rising home prices for 40 years.  US consumers have been harvesting this equity in an entirely unsustainable fashion.  The same applies to Japan and Europe.  The entire west has been living on seed corn with their wealth was transferred to the jewish internationalists.

When a re-balance finally does come, US consumers saddled with debt will not be able to afford to commute in their 13mpg 4 ton SUV's.   When the dollar crashes, the entire (((internationalized))) supply chain will fall apart while demand for the profitable 4 SUV's will disappear.

Lada will still be chugging along all on its own producing practical, reliable and durable small cars suited to the Russian market.

In reply to by HerpaDerp

InnVestuhrr Aengrod Tue, 06/05/2018 - 05:40 Permalink

Russian economy is about 12th in global ranking,


If you remove all the extractive industries, ie all the stuff like oil and gas that they just harvest from the earth vs produce with design & labor then sell with good marketing,


The Russian economy is tiny, ranking with only individual USA states and the smallest countries.

Name the manufactured products that Russia is known for globally, other than weapons ???

In reply to by Aengrod

Adolfsteinbergovitch InnVestuhrr Tue, 06/05/2018 - 07:27 Permalink


Russia this and Russia that. Bird names fly but America hasn't been able to build a successful heavy load launcher since what 40 years? And you still believe the Russians are the yokels in this story? Really? 

And go back to your study of Russian cars. They are more than able to build and sell them. Only they are not designed with the bells and whistles that would content the average obese Americanus specimen roaming the earth. 

P.s.: Russia's economic numbers are not artificially inflated by a local wallst like hydra that doesn't produce anything of value. 

In reply to by InnVestuhrr

InnVestuhrr Adolfsteinbergovitch Tue, 06/05/2018 - 09:04 Permalink

If Russian cars are so good, then why are they not being sold globally, especially in poorer markets not dominated by the " obese Americanus" ? I will tell you why: Because nobody wants to buy them.

I was in the space program, know very well that the Russians are capable of advanced technology, and they made many accomplishments in space program,


Those were done by Russian government, not free-enterprise economy

USA also has had good heavy-lift rockets, eg Saturn, and will again after restoration of funding that was cut by idiot politicians, and look at what SpaceX has accomplished with automatic return booster = AMAZING !

I have no complaints or hostility towards Russians, have great respect for their capacity for intellectual and technological achievements, rather I have pity for the ambitious and intelligent Russian people who continue to suffer from their corrupt society and government that stifle, strangle and suffocate individuals and especially entrepreneurs and free-enterprise.

Russia could be one of the top 5 economies if they had the will to fix their historic internal corruption, but they don't, and even Tzar Putin, who has unlimited power, has done nothing about fixing it and never will, so Russia will remain a struggling economy.

In reply to by Adolfsteinbergovitch

old naughty LetThemEatRand Tue, 06/05/2018 - 03:40 Permalink

ponder why no other nation landed a human on the moon (it's been 0.5 century already)?

advancing humanity (is it still exist?) was the propa-stuffed into us-evil idiots;

and this 6th-Branch is to propa-stuffed us that we MUST prep for war with C+R, well maybe...

and maybe really for the one after, to fight the (faked) aliens;

rev-eng WMD will wipe out billions, and the {un}lucky ones will serve the master.

america does not exist, the military is to serve and protect some-ting else...

welcome to the NWO. "Resistance is futile" (time to seek out alternative timelines).

In reply to by LetThemEatRand

HerpaDerp old naughty Tue, 06/05/2018 - 04:26 Permalink

ponder why no other nation landed a human on the moon (it's been 0.5 century already)?”


No reason and high cost of building rocket to get there 

“advancing humanity (is it still exist?) was the propa-stuffed into us-evil idiots;”

What language is this? Gibberish?

“and this 6th-Branch is to propa-stuffed us that we MUST prep for war with C+R, well maybe...

and maybe really for the one after, to fight the (faked) aliens;”

My cell phone is smarter then you

“rev-eng WMD will wipe out billions, and the {un}lucky ones will serve the master.

america does not exist, the military is to serve and protect some-ting else...”

Stop smoking incense brah

“welcome to the NWO. "Resistance is futile" (time to seek out alternative timelines).”

Stupid people like you should not be breeding.

In reply to by old naughty

Debugas Tue, 06/05/2018 - 02:50 Permalink

low earth orbit spy sattelites are powered by plutonium

this means radioactive contamination of our planet in 200-400 years when these sattelites fall back to earth

I am Groot Tue, 06/05/2018 - 03:12 Permalink

Some more over priced piece of bullshit tech that will cost the taxpayers trillions so some government douche can spy on chicks in their backyard and take dick pics from space.

911bodysnatchers322 Tue, 06/05/2018 - 03:17 Permalink

BULLSH*T it's not for competition with other space militaries and payload nonsense.  Look at their infographic.  It's for coating the earth with point to point long range wifi so they can maintain their monopoly on the Internet.  You see, what else is happening is Musk is thinking about long range low orbit wifi; google played aroudn with this loon idea of balloon wifi;  probably amazon, microsoft, virgin, so are....name 50 other companies thinking about this

DARPA, and by extension the entire military industrial complex is terrified of losing control to private interests.  So they are going to use DARPA and a few BULLSH*T zerohedge, ars technica, slashdottish, ZDnet, hackernewsish type articles as gaslighting with a gish gallop of 20 excuseologies of why they are doing this,  and that WILL NOT include reselling (laundering) their public skynet to ISP vendors to sell as retail services....

...This is how they maintain their monopoly on mass surveillance. 

You see, kids, the US gov has a monopoly on the current wired internet.  Some will debate me on this, but this is worldwide a worldwide patent and the proof is FIVE EYES, Echelon and the intel sharing agreements around the world, 9 eyes, 14 eyes, etc; that wouldn't be possible without a common carrier situation which mean the US gov owns the internet and then allows people on it.


Now if MUSK creates his own satellite network, then people could potentialy OPT COMPLETELY OUT of the regular internet, esp as decentralized peer to peer, torrenty, TOR'ey (hidden services), namecoin type tech, webtorrent type tech, I2P, etc type techs develop into a hugely disintermediating and disruptive paradigmatic sea change in how the 'internet' is used (Again, the internet in this context could also be referred to as musknet)


SO, like how the Deepstate blew up Musks first rocket by hacking the mooring clams so they wouldn't release and then said 'oops did I do that'--what a glitch.. (yes they did), they're going to continue to undermine any Musk technologies that empower the populist plebescite and underclass and/or offer this underclass ANY means to communicate outside of the Deepstate's ability to monitor it


I believe that musk rocket was taking student nanosats up there, some of which had the ability to create their own internet (ie: sat network proxy w/ ground to space ability) and that's why his rocket HAD to blow up.  Even though a student project, once it's up there it could be used to rat-run around the US intel community's surveillance grid


Get it?  That's what this DARPA horseSh*t is all about.  It's about creating another internet in low earth orbit so that they can reach more people (and therefore surveil more people), while also  making much more money because rural people want broadband as much as fancy urban dwellers; and there's tons of backchannel ad networks that want to get to those people also



HerpaDerp 911bodysnatchers322 Tue, 06/05/2018 - 04:32 Permalink



“I believe that musk rocket was taking student nanosats up there, some of which had the ability to create their own internet”


Why do these DARPA articles trigger an avalanche of moronic posts?


Do idiots have a secret algorithm to find intelligent conversations so they can find them and post moronic nonsense like the JIDF does?

What happened to smart people?

Where are all these retards coming from?

Another dimension?

In reply to by 911bodysnatchers322

pizdowitz Tue, 06/05/2018 - 04:36 Permalink

$6m per bird? plus the re-launch costs every year or so? service quality comparable to GEO? sounds like a wet dream to me... no biz manager will touch this... ever. And even if some musked loonie does, then the big boys will destroy him in a jiffy with an army of lobbyists... The XXI century DARPA reminds me of little gooofy boys with propeller hats -> 10:love for the rooskies.

GreatUncle Tue, 06/05/2018 - 05:52 Permalink

This spy satellite network will not be used for the benefit of humanity I am sure.

It will be for the slave owners to control their populations = us.

Who, why, etc. all kind of pointless thoughts if you cannot change it.

KuriousKat Tue, 06/05/2018 - 06:29 Permalink

Twitter algos now talkingto each other exchanging photos and using hashtags to avoid detection. while this is programmable..and not necessarily true AI..its already been observed systems  create their own language and no one knows what they are saying..

yes..keep up the great work ..idiots....a system that can monitor control  wage war, and steal from you..doesnt have to be money..can be ideas..resources under your feet..your  organs..none of this ends well..

Davidduke2000 Tue, 06/05/2018 - 06:44 Permalink

it's a joke to have low orbit satellites as the Russian S500 can pick them few at a time from earth even if there are 200 satellites it takes half a day to destroy them as there is no escape for a sitting duck.

cheech_wizard HarryKallahan Tue, 06/05/2018 - 10:49 Permalink

Stick to checkers. This has been brought up before on ZH, and the answers given make perfect sense.

1) If an earlier technology gets the job done, why waste a more expensive missile? This is in direct contradiction to the way the U.S. does business, as the U.S. will use a multi-million dollar cruise missile to blow up a goat.

2) By not using it, the US truly has no idea how well it works (again, if it works at all - however, the historical track record shows Russians are very good at missile tech), and the US also has no idea how to counter it.

Standard Disclaimer: That will be a nickel, this oracle does not work cheap.

In reply to by HarryKallahan

cheech_wizard Tue, 06/05/2018 - 10:42 Permalink

This is almost a non-starter out of the gate.

>Use advanced commercial manufacturing for military payloads and the spacecraft bus, including high-rate manufacturing, using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)-like parts, reduced screening and acceptance testing for individual spacecraft, and reduced expectations for spacecraft life

The US does very little manufacturing to military specs anymore, especially in the area of electronics. So the
"I" in "MIC" will be buying commercially graded electronic components, screening them to military specs at one of the two or three places that actually do this in the U.S., and then expecting them to work flawlessly in space.

Standard Disclaimer: I ask you, what could possibly go wrong?

MoreFreedom Tue, 06/05/2018 - 11:51 Permalink

Some country is going to blow up a satellite, creating the Kessler effect of huge amounts of orbiting space debris that will end up destroying many of the satellites in orbit, and make space missions far more dangerous.  There's nothing like a bolt tearing thru a satellite at thousands of miles per hour to create a bunch more bolts traveling thru space at that speed. 

Then we may lose all our weather and GPS capabilities for the entire planet.  Still, it won't help foreign countries much considering the US leads in the drone technology that would replace the spy satellites.

Rex Andrus MoreFreedom Tue, 06/05/2018 - 12:21 Permalink

Well obviously they are putting them in low orbit so the shit rains down on us all, and random wild life and drought tinder boxes everywhere, instead of wrecking their precious WMDs, surveillance and porn delivery systems. One of these days something in the ocean is going to throw all the radioactive waste back up here, Vlad, and all you other shitheads...

In reply to by MoreFreedom