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Optical Inter-Satellite Link Reached by SEAKR Engineering in DARPA Project; President Jeff Schrader Quoted

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Raytheon Technologies subsidiary company has achieved an optical inter-satellite link between two Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency satellites.

In trial one, the SEAKR Engineering team was able to transfer over 280 gigabits of data between the pair of Mandrake 2 satellites at a distance of 114 kilometers, the Centennial, Colorado-based aerospace manufacturer said Wednesday.

“This was a demonstration not only of optical communications in space but also a closer look at some of the foundational building blocks needed for a networked space architecture,” remarked Jeff Schrader, president of SEAKR Engineering and Blue Canyon Technologies.

The on-orbit link presentation was the accumulation of work by SEAKR and a handful of other firms over the course of the last couple of years. SA Photonics administered the satellites with optical links via an Astro Digital bus and ASI was responsible for inputting the software necessary to run the machines.

As the prime contractor for the project—which was entitled Blackjack by DARPA—SEAKR handled the system integration for the satellites.

In 2021, Blackjack was set back by a pre-launch mishap that led to the damage of both satellites. However, SEAKR’s engineers swiftly reconstructed the equipment and had them ready for launch in under six months.

Prior to the Mandrake 2 endeavor, the SEAKR team was at the forefront of the Mandrake 1 program. The first edition reached technical readiness level 9 for high-grade central processing units, which constituted the base elements of DARPA’s Pitboss and future battle management command control and communication apparatuses.

Schrader was appointed president of SEAKR and Blue Canyon from his prior role as vice president of Raytheon Intelligence & Space in late May. SEAKR was purchased by Raytheon in November 2021.