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Airbus partners with DARPA to develop satellite bus

Airbus partners with DARPA to develop satellite bus

Stephen Kuper

Airbus Defence and Space has secured a contract with the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a satellite bus to support the Blackjack program.

DARPA describes the Blackjack program as an architecture demonstration intended to show the military utility of global low-Earth orbit constellations and mesh networks of lower size, weight and cost.

DARPA wants to buy commercial satellite buses and pair them with military sensors and payloads. The bus drives each satellite by generating power, controlling attitude, providing propulsion, transmitting spacecraft telemetry, and providing general payload accommodation including mounting locations for the military sensors. 

Tim Deaver, director of US space programs at Airbus Defence and Space, said, "Airbus has previously co-invested hundreds of millions of dollars in high-rate manufacturing technology and supply chain logistics to build large constellations of small satellites."

This contract positions Airbus Defense and Space, of Herndon, Virginia, and its strategic joint venture partner, OneWeb Satellites of Exploration Park, Florida, as the ideal service providers for Blackjack.

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High production rates and design-to-cost management techniques enable OneWeb Satellites to offer low cost constellation solutions for the US government and current customers. Constellations of inexpensive satellites permit wide scale disaggregated architectures enhancing survivability across many different mission areas.

"Airbus is committed to growing manufacturing capability in the US and our government customers can leverage this commercial capability to develop low-Earth orbit constellations to complement large existing systems," Deaver added. 

OneWeb Satellites brings to bear capabilities that dramatically lower the cost and shorten acquisition timelines for customers thanks to a modular design and agile serial production of satellites.

The OneWeb Satellites manufacturing facility in Florida is the latest step in Airbus’ commitment to growth in US manufacturing, job creation and investment.

Tony Gingiss, CEO of OneWeb Satellites, said, "We have created a game changer with our overall design, supply chain and production system. Our team is transforming the space industry and we are in the midst of demonstrating we can deliver on our promises."

Airbus is the largest consumer of US aerospace and defence goods in the world – buying more than any other company or even country. Airbus invested US$16.5 billion with US companies in 2017, supporting 275,000 American jobs.

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