CACI International has successfully demonstrated a space-based communication network in a low-Earth orbit (LEO) under the Mandrake II programme.

The test was conducted in collaboration with the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the US Space Development Agency (SDA).

The demonstration involved establishing Optical InterSatellite Links (OISLs) on the Mandrake II satellite with the help of SA Photonics’ CrossBeam free-space optical terminals.

US-based firm SA Photonics was acquired by CACI last December, following which the companies collaborated to offer advanced photonics engineering and manufacturing capabilities in the US.

The 40-minute-long process was conducted on 14 April. It helped in establishing an optical link on the satellites that aim to support communication capability for the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) proliferated LEO (p-LEO) National Defense Space Architecture (NDSA).

The test further validated data transfer and closed-loop tracking capability in a link distance exceeding 100km, with more than 200Gb of data received and transmitted.

CACI CEO and president John Mengucci said: “Our national security depends on advanced, secure technology that enables modernised networks and enhanced intelligence systems for our warfighters using small satellites to operate at the speed of relevance.”

The Mandrake II programme is a joint effort of US Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate (AFRL/RV), DARPA and SDA.

It is a risk-reduction programme to evaluate the acquisition, pointing and tracking algorithms.

In June 2021, DARPA successfully deployed two Mandrake II spacecraft, namely Able and Baker.