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SDA Launches Experimental Satellites, Payload for National Defense Space Architecture Goals; Derek Tournear Quoted

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Derek Tournear
Derek Tournear SDA Director

The Space Development Agency (SDA) confirmed the deployment of its two satellite sets built to demonstrate optical communications in low-Earth orbit and a payload intended to test space data fusion.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida carrying the Mandrake II and Laser Interconnect Networking Communications System satellites along with the Prototype On-orbit Experimental Testbed (POET) payload as part of the company’s Transporter-2 rideshare mission, the Department of Defense said Wednesday.

Derek Tournear, director of SDA and a 2021 Wash100 Award recipient, said the agency expects its initial on-orbit experiments to generate real-world information that can facilitate space qualification of emerging technology and spiral development approach for the National Defense Space Architecture.

SDA intends to assess pointing, acquisition and tracking tools that support Optical Communication Terminals through the Mandrake II mission, with the help of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

The agency will work with General Atomics’ electromagnetic systems business to gather optical communications data through the LINCS platform and to demonstrate optical bandwidth connections using spacecraft and an OCT pod.

For the on-orbit POET demonstration, the agency expects a third-party data fusion application to lodge with a battle management command, control and communications software suite created for DARPA’s Blackjack Pit Boss processor.

DOD said these agency-led missions will support new technology implementation work in every tranche of the NDSA development initiative.