Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has selected 11 teams to work on Phase 1 of the space-based adaptive communications node (Space-BACN) programme.

The objective of this programme is to create a reconfigurable, cost-effective optical communications terminal to adapt optical intersatellite link standards, translating between various satellite constellations.

According to the agency, Space-BACN would create an ‘internet’ of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, allowing continuous communication between military/government and commercial/civil satellite constellations.

DARPA Strategic Technology Office Space-BACN programme manager Greg Kuperman said: “After a successful Phase-0 where we got to see teams sprint to put together an initial architecture design for Space-BACN, I’m excited to get to work in Phase-1 building actual system.”

The first technical area will see CACI, MBRYONICS and Mynaric develop a flexible, low size, weight, power and cost (SWaP-C) optical aperture that couples into single-mode fibre.

In the second technical area, II-VI Aerospace and Defense, Arizona State University and Intel Federal will develop a reconfigurable optical modem to support up to 100Gbps on a single wavelength.

The six performers will also participate in a collaborative working group to determine the interface between system components.

Under the third technical area, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), Telesat, SpaceLink, Viasat and Kuiper Government Solutions will identify command-and-control elements to support cross-constellation optical intersatellite link communications.

It will support the development of a schema to interface between Space-BACN and commercial partner constellations.

The 14-month Phase-1 will culminate with a preliminary design review of the first two technical areas.

Following Phase-1 completion, the first two technical area teams will participate in an 18-month Phase-2 to develop engineering design units of optical terminal components.

Five other firms will continue to evolve schema to function for challenging and dynamic scenarios.