The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced on August 4 that Stephen Forbes would be heading the Blackjack program.
The Blackjack program is part of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office to display the necessity of small satellites orbiting the low-Earth orbit. This move aims at offering competition to the Pentagon’s massive spectral satellites.
The incumbent Blackjack program coordinator, Paul Thomas, will be breaking forth to another job in the private industry. The agency announced this immediately after selecting Paul for this venture.
Forbes has been the Blackjack deputy program manager for the past two years. Before joining DARPA, Forbes was a senior space engineer in the test flight branch of the US. Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate. Forbes spoke through the SpaceNews webinar on August 4, explaining that Blackjack is shifting gears from technological ventures to the practical performance experimentation.
DARPA is collaborating with a variety of experienced defense contractors and satellite operator companies. Blackjack is one of the programs that is reaching out to contractors through agreements to develop satellites, satellite vehicles, and the integration of launch-related activities. In the webinar, Forbes stated that they are exploring ways of ensuring the Department of Defense accesses space operations through LEO.
Forbes says that it is costly to develop a spacecraft in the DoD since they do not have the economies of scale. For this reason, Blackjack is working out a method to build a rocket for DoD at a comparatively low price. Initially, it was ideological that for costs to go down, performance must depreciate. However, with the recent technological changes in the space industry, the story is changing. Various satellite operators are developing advanced spacecraft at an economical price. This vibe is possible due to the availability of resources for the creation of space vehicles.
The Blackjack program will be deploying its experimental payloads to the low-Earth orbit to validate its technological advances through optical communications connections, independent satellite activities, it the ability of the satellites to identify crucial spots on the terrestrial land and seas.
In this virtual conference, other vital speakers included Jason Kim of Raytheon Space Systems, Bill Schum of Blue Canyon Technologies, Eric Goodman of Lockheed Martin, and finally, Andrew Berg of Loft Orbital. The above for executives are Blackjack proponents, who are collaborating with the firm in entirety through contracts.
Finally, there are high expectations from the leadership of Stephen Forbes in the Blackjack program. DARPA hopes that he can exemplify his previous experience in this new but familiar job.