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SEAKR Engineering Demonstrates Optical Communications on DARPA’s Mandrake 2 Satellites

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
June 12, 2022
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Mandrake 2 satellites (Credit: DARPA)

Integrated technology allows for on-orbit networked systems

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (SEAKR Engineering PR) – SEAKR Engineering, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies, announced a successful demonstration of optical inter-satellite links between two Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Mandrake 2 satellites. During the first test, more than 280 gigabits of data were transferred at a range of 114 kilometers during a period of more than 40 minutes. 

“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,” said Jeff Schrader, president of SEAKR Engineering and Blue Canyon Technologies. 

Under DARPA’s Blackjack project, two Mandrake 2 spacecraft were launched last year to demonstrate advanced laser communications. The satellites, called Able and Baker, were outfitted with SA Photonics optical links onboard an Astro Digital bus. ASI provided the satellite software needed to operate the vehicles. SEAKR, the prime contractor, led the system integration of both satellites.

Originally scheduled for a January 2021 launch, a pre-launch incident damaged both Able and Baker satellites. SEAKR was able to repair and rebuild the satellites, and then deliver them for launch in less than six months. 

“This recent on-orbit demonstration was the culmination of several organizations working in tandem to solve a number of challenges,” said Scott Lowery, SEAKR Mandrake program manager. 

SEAKR also led the Mandrake 1 program that completed its mission, establishing Technical Readiness Level 9 for some of the highest performing CPUs to ever fly. These processing elements are the building blocks for DARPA’s Pitboss and future Battle Management Command Control and Communication systems. Like Mandrake 2, the schedule for Mandrake 1 was nine months from program award to launch integration. 

About SEAKR Engineering

SEAKR Engineering is the leading-edge provider of advanced electronics for space applications. We design and manufacture processors, command and data handling systems, advanced payloads, and manned space hardware. Founded in 1982 to revolutionize spacecraft memory systems, today SEAKR continues forward innovation with state-of-the-art space communications processors capable of channelization and beamforming. SEAKR was acquired by Raytheon Technologies in 2021. For more information on SEAKR’s processing capabilities or SEAKR products, please visit SEAKR.COM.

About Raytheon Intelligence & Space

Raytheon Intelligence & Space, a Raytheon Technologies business, delivers the disruptive technologies our customers need to succeed in any domain, against any challenge. A developer of advanced sensors, cyber services and software solutions, Raytheon Intelligence & Space provides a decisive advantage to civil, military and commercial customers around the world.