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Stephen Forbes: DARPA ‘Likely’ to Choose Two Payloads for ‘Blackjack’ Satellites

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Stephen Forbes
Stephen Forbes Blackjack Program Manager DARPA

Stephen Forbes, Blackjack program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), said DARPA is exploring different payloads for small satellites in low-Earth orbit but is “likely” to pick only two payloads to fly on those spacecraft as part of the Blackjack initiative, Breaking Defense reported Thursday.

“I’m going to let the technical decisions drive that [choice], but I can say that, at the end of the day, we’ll probably end up with two different configurations … two different payloads,” said Forbes.

Those payloads are an overhead persistent infrared missile warning sensor and a radio frequency system that can support geolocation and communications.

“If there are opportunities to get more payloads on orbit by putting two payloads on one bus, we may we may look at that,” Forbes said. “But if it becomes where that starts to drive cost or schedule, we’ll go into separate configurations.”

He noted that a shift in demand from military users could be a factor that could spur the program to change its approach regarding payloads.

“We’ve made the conscious effort to focus on tactical with this program,” Forbes said. “We really focused on payloads that had tactical utility, because they were an underserved market.”