Mission achieves successful optical cross-links between the two satellites
LONG BEACH, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a leading space and launch systems company, has supported a significant milestone for DARPA and the Mandrake-2 mission of the Space Development Agency (SDA).
In June, the two Mandrake-2 spacecraft, Able and Baker, successfully demonstrated the closure and maintenance of an optical communications link during the full 40-minute test duration at a distance of 114 km. In that time, more than 280 Gb of data was transferred between the satellites. This is a historic step in DARPA and SDA’s vision to provide a secure, resilient, low-latency, high-volume data transport communication system around the globe via a mesh network of optically interconnected spacecraft.
“This is a game-changing advance and a critical enabler for proliferating space architectures,” said Stephen Forbes, manager of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Blackjack program. Office.
Rocket Lab has played a leadership role in the mission through its team at Advanced Solutions Inc. (ASI), a Colorado-based aerospace engineering company that provides mission-proven space software, mission simulation and test solutions. Acquired by Rocket Lab in October 2021, ASI has been part of the Mandrake-2 mission since the beginning of the program, helping to deliver space vehicles to the launch site in less than nine months.
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Rocket Lab provided the mission with MAX flight software, guidance, navigation and control (GNC) design and analysis, the MAX ground data system, and mission operations. Since its launch, the spacecraft has been operated from the Rocket Lab Operations Center in Littleton, Colorado. As part of operations, the Rocket Lab team is responsible for daily spacecraft status and health monitoring, payload tasking, and trajectory control between spacecraft to support optical cross-link testing. . Rocket Lab also supplied the star trackers and reaction wheels for the spacecraft, enabling the high-precision attitude determination and control needed to achieve the optical communications link. The spacecraft separation system for the mission was also supplied by Rocket Lab.
“This is a significant step toward realizing a high-speed global space network and I couldn’t be more proud of the teams at Rocket Lab and ASI for making it possible,” said Rocket Lab Founder and CEO Peter Beck. “Once again, this is a strong demonstration of the efficiency and reliability delivered by Rocket Lab’s vertically integrated capabilities.”
The Mandrake-2 spacecraft was developed as an early risk mitigation for DARPA’s Blackjack program to demonstrate high-bandwidth optical inter-satellite links (OISL) through advanced laser communication technology. The spacecraft was developed and ready for launch in just nine months, with final testing of both spacecraft taking place at Rocket Lab’s facility in Colorado before shipment to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.
Both the satellites and the payloads are in good condition and are working well. The Rocket Lab team looks forward to continuing to support DARPA and SDA to further characterize and demonstrate this critical capability in orbit.
+ About Rocket Lab
Founded in 2006, Rocket Lab is a comprehensive space company with an established track record of mission success. We provide reliable launch services, satellite manufacturing, spacecraft components, and in-orbit management solutions that make getting into space faster, easier, and cheaper. Headquartered in Long Beach, California, Rocket Lab designs and manufactures the Electron small orbital launch vehicle and Photon satellite platform and is developing the Neutron 8-ton payload-class launch vehicle. Since its first orbital launch in January 2018, Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle has become the second most frequently launched U.S. rocket annually and has launched 148 satellites into orbit for public and private sector organizations, enabling operations in national security, scientific research, space debris mitigation. , Earth observation, weather monitoring and communications. Rocket Lab’s Photon spacecraft platform has been selected to support NASA’s missions to the Moon and Mars, as well as the first private commercial mission to Venus. Rocket Lab has three launch pads at two launch sites, including two launch pads at a private orbital launch site located in New Zealand and a second launch site in Virginia, USA, which is expected to be operational in 2022. For more information, visit www.rocketlabusa.com.
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