DARPA has chosen Mynaric to develop next-generation optical terminals

The company announced on December 20 that it had been chosen to engage in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency project to create next-generation laser communications terminals to be able to connect commercial and government satellites. Germany-based Mynaric creates optical communication terminals or gadgets that transport data over space using lasers.

DARPA is working on a new laser terminal that would work with any constellation and enable it to be easier for both commercial and government satellites to communicate with one another. Space-BACN, which stands for space-centered adaptive communications node, is the name of the program. According to Mynaric’s president Tina Ghataore, the company will work on the “architectural design of the next-generation optical communications terminal as a component of the phase 0 of the Space-BACN program.”

“As commercial and government small-satellite constellations multiply in low Earth orbit, DARPA has announced a new endeavor to develop a new optical communications terminal that would join varied constellations into a durable space layer,” according to the agency. The goal, according to Greg Kuperman, who works as the manager of Space-BACN initiative, is “seamless communication between diverse constellations that are currently unable to communicate with one another.”

On September 22, DARPA held an online conference with prospective bidders to discuss the project. The deadline for proposals was October 4th. Thousands of broadband satellites are being launched to beam internet signals to the users on Earth, according to Kuperman, but “the issue with this development is that the optical communications connections are presently engineered to only link satellites within a provided constellation — they can’t dynamically adapt waveforms to be able to communicate with satellites in the other constellations.”

Other vendors for the Space-BACN program are anticipated to be chosen by DARPA. Mynaric and other vendors will present concepts for producing constellation-agnostic optical communications terminals which are smaller and less expensive than current models. DARPA stated that its goal is to develop terminals which can transfer data at 100 gigabits per second as well as cost less than $100,000 each.

According to Tim Deaver, Mynaric’s vice president in charge of the strategic solutions, the Space-BACN program anticipates an optical communications terminal which can be adjusted to work with majority of today’s optical inter-satellite link protocols.

Selected vendors will create the architectural design over the program’s first 15 weeks. DARPA will then select a few vendors to continue into the next 14-month phase, which will include the development of a bench-top model of optical communications terminals. Companies that make it to the last 20-month phase will create a working prototype of the future product. “Scalable and cheap ways to bridge the gap between emerging commercial and government communication systems,” Deaver stated of the Space-BACN initiative.

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