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Rocket Lab, DARPA and Space Development Agency achieve Mandrake-2 milestone

SEAKR Engineering demonstrated optical communications on the Mandrake 2 satellites. Credit: Raytheon Intelligence and Space

Lake Balaton / Long Beach, 15 July 2022. – Launch and space systems company, Rocket Lab USA, has supported a significant milestone for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Space Development Agency’s (SDA) Mandrake-2 mission, the company said.

Able and Baker, the two Mandrake-2 spacecraft, successfully closed and maintained an optical communications link at a range of 114 km. Over 280 Gb of data were transferred between the satellites during the 40-minute test. The demonstration supports DARPA and SDA’s vision to provide a resilient, low-latency, high-volume global data transport system.

Rocket Lab’s team at Advanced Solutions (ASI), has been part of the Mandrake-2 mission since the beginning of the program. The company contributed its MAX Flight Software, guidance, navigation and control design and analysis, MAX Ground Data System, and mission operations to the mission. Rocket Lab is also responsible for the daily spacecraft health and status monitoring, payload tasking, and trajectory control, the firm said. 

Rocket Lab supplied the star trackers, reactions wheels and the spacecraft separation system for the mission as well. The aim of the mesh network of optically interconnected space vehicles is to provide early risk reduction for DARPA’s Blackjack program. The Mandrake-2 spacecraft were developed and launch-ready in nine months.

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