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Blackjack satellite thrusters will be provided by ExoTerra

ExoTerra Resources has been chosen by Blue Canyon Technologies to offer electric propulsion for the Blackjack Phase 3 and Phase 2 and satellites of Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, which are currently in development. With options to construct 16 extra small satellites for the constellation in the low Earth orbit (LEO), Blue Canyon, which is a Raytheon subsidiary, was awarded a $14.1 million DARPA deal in 2020 to produce four Blackjack satellites for the constellation in the low Earth orbit that will provide navigation services, communications and missile tracking.

Blue Canyon selected Orbion Space Technology to offer the electric propulsion for the very first four Blackjack spacecraft, which will launch in 2020. Blue Canyon Technologies, which is a small satellite manufacturer, stated on September 15 that it had picked Orbion Space Technology to provide the electric propulsion systems for the United States military’s Blackjack satellite constellation.

A total of 4 satellites for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Blackjack program are being built by Blue Canyon. To illustrate that a low-Earth-orbit mesh network can meet military objectives at a lower cost and with quicker design cycles than standard Pentagon programs, DARPA wants to launch up to 20 tiny satellites.

DARPA picked Colorado-centred Blue Canyon as among the satellite bus vendors for Blackjack in October 2018. Blue Canyon is among the satellite bus vendors for Blackjack. The business was awarded a $14.1 million deal by the government in June 2020 to produce four satellites, with an option to expand the deal to include up to 20 satellites for an additional $99 million.

Orbion is a four-year-old firm based in Houghton, Michigan, which concentrates on the development of Hall-effect plasma thrusters that are used in tiny satellite applications. ExoTerra was a supplementary provider of the Hall effect propulsion systems for the Blue Canyon’s first four Blackjack satellites, which were launched in 2004 and 2005, respectively. ExoTerra, based in Littleton, Colorado, anticipates that its thrusters will be used on 2 Blue Canyon Blackjack satellites set to launch in 2022.

The CEO of ExoTerra, Mike VanWoerkom, expressed his excitement about the opportunity to collaborate with Blue Canyon as well as DARPA on this project. “Being chosen by Blue Canyon reaffirms the hard work we’ve been putting in to put the production facilities in place to fulfill the increasing demands for propulsion from the constellations of the microsatellites like Blackjack,” says the company. VanWoerkom told SpaceNews that ExoTerra has not yet successfully tested the Halo Hall-effect thruster, that can fit in a quarter of a cubesat’s volume. The maiden thruster flight of ExoTerra is slated to take place in March.

ExoTerra moved into a facility that measures 1,022 square meters in Littleton, Colorado, a year ago in response to the increased demand for miniature thrusters. The facility has enough production capability to manufacture 200 propulsion pieces per year, as well as solar arrays as well as electronic control systems which are radiation-tolerant, according to the company. ExoTerra is also preparing for a test flight of its 12-unit cubesat, which will be fitted with the solar electric propulsion module that is compact and has a high-impulse in the year 2022, according to the company. The cubesat launch is being funded by NASA’s Tipping Point initiative, which promotes technologies for the long-term moon and Mars exploration and exploration technologies.

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