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SEAKR Mandrake I delivers success for DARPA Blackjack on-orbit tech demonstration

(12 May 2021 - SEAKR) SEAKR Engineering has announced the operational success of next generation commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) processing hardware as part of a risk reduction technology demonstration supporting the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA’s) Blackjack Program.

The Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) demonstration, known as Mandrake I, is a risk reduction mission in parallel to Blackjack’s Pit Boss program featuring satellite integrated SEAKR technology advancements for radiation mitigation and processor performance validation. The fully operational orbital platform, launched Fall 2020, affords risk buy-down for future Blackjack payloads and has shown success executing a tactical maritime experiment demonstrating engineering complexities such as mission autonomy, over-the-air (OTA) updates, massless payload deployment, and sensor edge processing and exploitation, all of which are enabled by the SEAKR payload incorporating a high-performance multi-core Advanced RISC Machines (ARM) processor and multiple Graphic Processing Units (GPUs).

As Pit Boss prime and mission integrator, SEAKR realized Pit Boss hardware and Mandrake I from concept to on-orbit in just 9 months and continues to achieve on-orbit success demonstrating portions of Blackjack’s autonomous operations. This exemplifies the processor’s power performance capabilities, handling necessary flight computer and imaging payload interface management for autonomous vehicle control, invaluable to future mission executions. Pit Boss is designed as an autonomous, collaborative, distributed space-based enterprise designed to self-task, process, and distribute tactically relevant information to manned and unmanned subscribers. DARPA’s Blackjack program focuses on integrating commercial satellite technologies into a constellation of affordable, small, secure, and resilient military satellites.

Embracing interoperability and collective advancements benefiting the warfighter and having achieved its mission objectives, the vehicle is currently available to other United States Government (USG) agencies under DARPA stewardship, for use via OTA enabled mission uploads.

SEAKR’s processing system for DARPA’s blackjack program leverages four generations of architectural capability supporting the full spectrum of payload processing performance requirements, with a high level of on-orbit reconfigurable processing capability. Pulling from its established heritage capabilities, strength in RF communications, along with the continuous product and architectural advancement, SEAKR continues to define leading edge, state-of-practice processing systems in partnership with Government, Civil, and Commercial entities. SEAKR’s previous study and prototype advancements have successfully contributed to our customer’s ability to solve complex challenges imperative in advancing capability to meet today’s most daunting mission objectives. Key technologies being deployed and leveraged include: Analog-to-Digital Converter (ADC) and Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) Technologies, Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) based Processing technologies, and Application Specific Independent Circuit (ASIC) based processing technologies.

About SEAKR Engineering

SEAKR Engineering is the leading-edge provider of advanced electronics for space applications. We design and manufacture processors, command and data handling systems, advanced payloads, and manned space hardware. Founded in 1982 to revolutionize spacecraft memory systems, today SEAKR continues forward innovation with state-of-the-art space communications processors capable of channelization and beamforming.



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