World's First Link 16-Capable LEO Spacecraft to Launch in 2020

Small satellite manufacturer Blue Canyon Technologies (BCT) has been selected by global communications company, Viasat, to join its team supporting the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles XVI pilot program to test the first-ever Link 16-capable LEO spacecraft. Under the agreement, BCT will design and manufacture a 12U small satellite bus. Viasat is the lead on the design and manufacture of the spacecraft’s payload. Launch of the spacecraft is expected in 2020. 

Link 16 is an encrypted radio frequency technology widely used by the U.S. military and NATO allies to share critical information. Link 16 terminals are deployed aboard aircrafts, land vehicles and ships to facilitate the exchange of data and images in standard message formats. The pilot project will test the feasibility of using small satellites in low-Earth orbits to relay more and better information to units in the field. 

The 12U spacecraft uses BCT’s heritage XB1 avionics to provide a state-of-the-art satellite platform that maximizes payload volume. The spacecraft includes ultra-high-performance pointing accuracy, a robust power system, command, and data handling, RF communications, and dedicated payload interfaces. The spacecraft bus will be developed and tested at BCT’s Spacecraft Manufacturing Center in Colorado. Integration of the bus and payload will occur at Viasat’s Tempe, Arizona facility. 

BCT is currently building more than 60 spacecraft for government, commercial and academic missions. The company has doubled in size over the past 12 months and plans to open its new 80,000-square-foot headquarters and production facility in 2020.