Emergent Successfully Transitions Modeling and Simulation Technology to DARPA’s Blackjack Program
Under a Department of Defense (DoD) Rapid Innovation Fund (RIF) contract, Emergent Space Technologies, Inc. (Emergent) successfully transitioned its modeling and simulation software, Ascent, to the DARPA Tactical Technology Office (TTO) Blackjack Pit Boss program. The RIF provides a collaborative vehicle for small businesses to provide the DoD with innovative technologies that can be rapidly inserted into acquisition programs that meet critical national security needs. The RIF is administered by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (ASD R&E) and Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP).
Ascent is Emergent’s proprietary tool for high-fidelity modeling and simulation of space vehicles, including spacecraft bus and payload models; communications and tracking networks; and spacecraft force, measurement and reference frame models. The Common Open Research Emulator (CORE) is used for simulation of space-to-space and space-to-ground communications across realistic network conditions and physical dynamics. A key feature of Ascent is this ability to test flight software in software- and processor-in-the-loop (SIL/PIL) deployments for pre-flight integration and test of complex software solutions for autonomous, networked satellite systems. Integrated testing of spacecraft autonomy and bus payload management software using realistic models for the buses, payloads and the network links provides insight into achievable performance requirements (communications bandwidth, data latency, navigation and time, etc.) for satellite constellations such as those envisioned by Blackjack as well as the SDA’s National Defense Space Architecture.
Blackjack, for example, aims to demonstrate the capabilities of a proliferated low Earth orbit (P-LEO) system through a variety of on-orbit experiments using low-cost small satellites, each carrying payloads relevant to select military missions. Pit Boss is the computing and encryption hardware and modular software element of Blackjack that is envisioned to enable autonomous on-orbit mission tasking, sensor collection, on-board processing and exploitation, and dissemination via a worldwide digital network, all at mission speed. Emergent used Ascent to integrate and test the mission autonomy software as part of its Pit Boss Base and Option Period 1 subcontracts to prime contractor Scientific Systems Company, Inc. This culminated in a highly successful real-time SIL demonstration of Pit Boss functionality at the preliminary design review with DARPA in February 2020. This demo encompassed a 20 vehicle overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) constellation for missile tracking with each vehicle instance running the Pit Boss flight software. It included integration of an OPIR payload emulator as well as prototypes of the human-machine system interface ground system software.
“ASCENT played a key role in the development of our team’s Pit Boss flight software and demonstrated the strategic value of modeling and simulation software as a technology in and of itself”, said Dr. George Davis, CEO of Emergent. “The architectures needed for future autonomous, multi-satellite space systems require sophisticated mod/sim technology for their development. We are grateful to our sponsors and partners at Air Force SMC for believing in our concept of Enterprise Flight Software and the use of mod/sim technology for its rapid development and deployment.”