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Stephen Forbes: DARPA’s Mandrake 2 Satellites to Demo Use of Light Beams for Space-to-Ground Communications

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Stephen Forbes, Blackjack program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, said DARPA plans to test soon the capability of a pair of Mandrake 2 experimental satellites to use lasers to transmit data from space to ground, Breaking Defense reported Thursday.

The announcement came after DARPA demonstrated in May the capability of the two satellites to perform space-to-space data transmission using optical intersatellite links.

Forbes told the publication that Mandrake is meant to “burn down risk as quickly as possible” for OISLs, including those for large constellations of low-Earth orbit small satellites being built by the Space Development Agency.

“Mandrake 2 is a risk reduction for the Blackjack and the proliferated LEO programs. Which is why SBA partnered with us — why this coalition of the willing came together — because to build that proliferated LEO architecture, we need to be able to share data across the satellites,” Forbes said.

“That fundamentally is foundational to what these architectures need to be successful,” he added.

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