DARPA aims to establish a low Earth orbit "Internet" of connected satellites

To connect satellite networks, DARPA teams have start developing a unique optical intersatellite communications terminal.
Christopher McFadden
DARPA's planned Space-BACN.
DARPA's planned Space-BACN.


  • DARPA has announced its shortlisted team members for its planned Space-BACN
  • The teams include academic and private enterprises
  • Household names include the likes of SpaceX, and Kuiper Government Solutions

DARPA has officially announced the winning 11 teams for Phase 1 of the Space-Based Adaptive Communications Node initiative, often known as Space-BACN. Space-BACN aims to develop a low-cost, reconfigurable optical communications terminal that can translate between various satellite constellations and conform to the majority of optical inter-satellite link standards.

In order to enable seamless communication between military/government and commercial/civil satellite constellations that are now unable to communicate with one another, Space-BACN will establish an “internet” of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites.

The agency chose teams from academia and big and small businesses, and some performers were given their first contracts with the Department of Defense.

DARPA aims to establish a low Earth orbit "Internet" of connected satellites
Satellite in low earth orbit.

“We intentionally made making a proposal to our Space-BACN solicitations as easy as possible because we wanted to tap into both established defense companies and the large pool of innovative small tech companies, many of which don’t have the time or resources to figure out complicated government contracting processes,” said Greg Kuperman, Space-BACN program manager in DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office.

“We used other transactions and were very pleased with diversity of organizations that responded, and quality of proposals. After a successful Phase 0 where we got to see the teams sprint to put together an initial architecture design for Space-BACN, I'm excited to get to work in Phase 1 building the actual system.”

The chosen teams are a motley collection of public and private enterprises

According to DARPA, in the first technical area, the following performers will aim to develop a flexible, low-size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C) optical aperture that couples into single-mode fiber:

  • CACI, Inc.
  • Mynaric

The following teams were also selected in the second technical area aim of developing a reconfigurable optical modem that supports up to 100 Gbps on a single wavelength:

  • II-VI Aerospace and Defense
  • Arizona State University
  • Intel Federal, LLC

The aforementioned "performer teams" will also participate in a joint effort to specify the interface between their individual system components.

DARPA has also chosen five teams to work in a third technological area to identify key command and control components needed to facilitate cross-constellation optical inter-satellite link communications and provide the interface between Space-BACN and commercial partner constellations:

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The first phase of the Space-BACN will last 14 months and will be completed with a preliminary design review for the first two technical areas and a fully defined interface between system components.

The third technical area will create the cross-constellation command and control schema and do a connectivity demo in a simulated setting to validate the schema for an initial scenario.

Selected performers from the first two technical areas will participate in an 18-month Phase 2 to create the engineering design units for the optical terminal components after Phase 1 is completed. At the same time, performers from the third technical area will continue to develop the schema to work in more complex and dynamic situations.

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