“We’ve made it a priority to get the Tranche 0 buses done first before finishing the PredaSAR,” he said. The first two PredaSAR satellites will launch in the first or second quarter of 2023.
The overall plan for the PredaSAR constellation, originally projected to include 96 satellites, is changing, although Bell didn’t disclose changes in the number of satellites or schedule for its deployment. “The plan is evolving. We are looking at getting the first two up,” he said. “The satellites continue to evolve.”
Those satellites will be significantly larger than other smallsats being developed for SAR constellations and will use the Tranche 1 bus. “We’re seeing the benefits of going to a bigger bus with more batteries,” he said, allowing for more sustained radar imaging. The larger buses can also accommodate secondary payloads, such as one satellite that will have an optical inter-satellite link to communicate with DARPA’s Blackjack satellites.
Bell said that, once deployed, he expected PredaSAR to be competitive with existing commercial SAR systems. “MySpace was the first, but it wasn’t the winner. We keep reminding ourselves that it’s all about the endgame.”