The shortage of microchip supply due to the COVID-19 pandemic is slowing down the progress of satellite efforts under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a program manager told SpaceNews Thursday.
Stephen Forbes, Blackjack program manager, said DARPA is eyeing to launch 12 satellites into low Earth orbit by 2022 but the disruption in the supply chain is presenting challenges to the scheduled demonstration of military space networks.
“Our performers are doing a really good job but it’s taking a lot more effort than we ever expected to hunt down capacitors and other stuff like that… We’re actively working all of our parts issues and trying to make sure that we can find the parts that we need, especially when we’re buying onesies and twosies,” he said.
DARPA has ordered 10 satellite buses from Raytheon Technologies’ subsidiary Blue Canyon Technologies, and two from Telesat. The agency is also getting payload from other suppliers.
With regard to microchip efforts, the Department of Defense on Monday awarded Intel a contract for the establishment of an intellectual property ecosystem that will support the first phase of a commercial chip fabrication project.
The contract comes after the department’s $197.2 million investment in strengthening the microelectronics industrial base.