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Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Defense responsible for the development of new technologies.

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is part of the United States Department of Defense making "pivotal investments in breakthrough technologies for national security."

Dwight D. Eisenhower created the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) on February 7, 1958, in response to the Soviet Union's successful launch of the first satellite into earth's orbit, Sputnik 1, in 1957. The successful launch of Sputnik 1 caught the US government and president Eisenhower off guard. Eisenhower went on to say that ARPA was created to "prevent technological surprise."

ARPA would later be renamed Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in 1972. DARPA briefly became ARPA again from 1993-1996, before adopting DARPA again in 1996. According to the Deputy Secretary of Defense at the time, William Perry, DAPRA adopted its former name ARPA to "expand the agency's mission to pursue imaginative and innovative research and development projects having significant potential for both military and commercial (dual-use) applications."

Technologies developed by DARPA

Since the founding of DARPA in 1958, the agency has been responsible for developing several important technologies. Notable technologies developed, or helped, by DARPA include the following: the internet, graphical user interfaces (GUIs), the weather satellite, interactive maps (Example: Google Maps), voice-recognition systems (Example: Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri), Unix, cloud computing, and Global Positioning Systems (GPS).

Research Programs

DARPA's research programs and investment strategy use a portfolio approach. Their approach, in this case, reaches for the biggest potential outcome from these research programs, meaning DARPA approaches them with a high appetite for risk. Objectives are pursued through various hundreds of programs, are finite in duration, and address a range of technology opportunities and national security challenges. Some of those programs include the following:

Living Foundries

This program seeks to enhance national defense through improving the synthetic biology capabilities of the United States of America. The living foundries program consists of two primary programs: 1. Living foundries: Advanced Tools and Capabilities for Generalizable Platforms (ATCG), and 2. Living Foundries: 1000 Molecules.

Accelerated Molecular Discovery

This program works to produce new molecules, from stimulants and medicines capable of countering emerging threats, coatings, dyes, and specialty fuels. Rather than following an iterative design/test cycle limited by the molecular expertise of the chemist, DARPA's Accelerated Molecular Discovery program is developing a systematic approach intended to increase the pace of discovery. This includes developing a closed-loop system to build and integrate tools for extracting existing data from databases and text, executing autonomous experimental measurement and optimization, and incorporating computational approaches to develop physics-based representations and predictive tools.

Battlefield Medicine

As the name suggests, the Battlefield Medicine program seeks to address the medical supply logistics limitations on battlefields. This is done through integrated research thrusts, including the Pharmacy on Demand and Biologically-derived Medicines on Demand initiatives. These efforts seek to develop miniaturized pharmaceutical ingredients and therapeutic proteins for battlefield threats and medical needs as they arise.

Direct On-Chip Digital Optical Synthesizer

The Direct On-Chip Digital Optical Synthesizer program works to use heterogeneous photonic integration to arrange necessary components, such as tunable laser sources, optical modulators, non-linear photonic elements, and CMOS radiofrequency and control circuitry onto a chip with power consumption of less than 1 watt. The chip is intended to act as a gearbox to translate the stability and accuracy of an RF signal to the optical domain.

Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept

Hypersonic systems operate at five times the speed of sound (Mach 5), offering longer ranges with shorter response times, to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of weapon systems. The program works to develop and demonstrate technologies to enable effective air-launched hypersonic cruise missiles, with technologies including advanced air vehicle configurations capable of efficient hypersonic flight, hydrocarban scramjet-powered propulsion to enable sustained hypersonic cruise, approaches to managing thermal stresses of high-temperature cruise, and affordable systems designs and manufacturing approaches.

Millimeter Wave GaN Maturation

DARPA's Millimeter Wave GaN Maturation program works to develop GaN transistor technology to achieve high-speed and large voltage swing. This program builds on previous program successes to mature GaN transistors, including improving device yield, reducing process cycle time, and demonstrating key millimeter wave power amplifiers and mixed-signals circuits through the use of multi-project wafer runs.

Projects Funded by DARPA


August 4, 2022
DARPA chooses Teledyne to design advanced RF and microwave MMICs for communications and sensing at G-band.
July 25, 2022
DARPA seeks portable muon-making machine to see through almost anything.
July 18, 2022
DARPA selects HRL to develop a frequency amplifier.
July 18, 2022
DARPA looks to develop a device to analyze bodily fluids to measure physical and cognitive readiness, through their SNAP program.
July 15, 2022
DARPA conducts the first ground-launched hypersonic glide weapon test.
August 1, 1960
The Corona photo-reconnaissance program is successful in taking and delivering photos to the United States government that were taken over the Soviet Union, providing military intelligence during the Cold War.
Image taken by the Corona photo-reconnaissance program.

April 1, 1960
The first weather satellite is launched (TIROS)by ARPA, in partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), U.S. Defense Department, and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Animation of the TIROS satellite.

January 1, 1960
The scientific field of material science is established.
January 1, 1959
The Electronically Steered Array Radar (ESAR) program is established, and ARPA pioneers supporting technologies and construction of the first ground-based phased array radars.
Photo of a ground-based phased array radar made by ARPA.

October 4, 1957
Sputnik is launched by USSR, which eventually leads to the creation of ARPA the following year.

The Soviet Union (USSR) successfully launches the world's first satellite into orbit, surprising the United States government, which leads to the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) on February 7, 1958, with the goal of keeping the United States the global technological superpower.

Invested in



Further Resources


"Special Forces" Innovation: How DARPA Attacks Problems

Regina E. Dugan and Kaigham J. Gabriel

Web article

"Special Forces" Innovation: How DARPA Attacks Problems


October 1, 2013

DARPA To Fund New AI Concepts With Millions

Sam Shead

News article

DARPA's Biotech Chief Says 2017 Will "Blow Our Minds"

Dina Fine Maron

Web article

Drones Recharged by a Laser Could Fly Forever

Kyle Mizokami

News article


Annalee Armstrong
June 23, 2021
President Biden has proposed a new research agency to sit within the National Institutes of Health, called the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health. The program has requested an initial $6.5 billion in funding "to develop breakthroughs--to prevent, detect, and treat diseases like Alzheimer's, diabetes, and cancer," according to a paper by several officials published Tuesday.
Dieynaba Young
June 18, 2021
Smithsonian Magazine
The so-called 'living pharmacy' will be able to manufacture pharmaceuticals from inside the body
David Hambling
June 10, 2021
New Scientist
The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has developed a drone interceptor that fires what appears to be a form of Silly String into their rotors, bringing them down with minimal risk of accidental damage
The Economist
May 30, 2021
The Economist
They will not succeed unless they adopt the spirit which motivates it
Virginia Heffernan
May 28, 2021
Los Angeles Times
If it works on social media, imagine how many janky cancellations DARPA's AI program could save us.


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