DARPA’s Space-Based Adaptive Communications Node (Space-BACN) would allow seamless communication between various constellations of satellites that currently cannot talk to each other.
“There could be tens of thousands of small satellites launched into Low Earth Orbit over the next decade as the demand around the world for affordable space-based capabilities grows,” said Greg Kuperman, Space-BACN program manager in DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office. “The problem with this growth is that optical communications links are currently engineered to only connect satellites within a given constellation – they can’t dynamically adapt waveforms to communicate with satellites in other constellations. This lack of standardization results in a fragmented, stove-piped ‘Wild West’ space domain with new satellite constellations that can’t interoperate, government satellites that can’t communicate between one another, and government satellites unable to take advantage of emerging commercial communications capabilities.”
Space-BACN envisions an adaptable communications terminal that could be reconfigured on-orbit to talk across different standards, presenting a leap in technology from the current state of the art. Space-BACN will involve inter alia a novel cross-constellation command and control approach to automate interactions between government and commercial satellites.
Space-BACN has significant military and civilian uses.
Excerpts from Adaptable Optical Communications to Facilitate Future Low-Earth Orbit Networks
See also DARPA solicitation Nov. 2021a
Companies and institutions that are working on this are: Analog Photonics, Arizona State University; CACI; II-VI Aerospace & Defense; Intel Federal; L3 Harris and Northrop Grumman.