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SDA Awards $1.3B to Northrop Grumman and York Space Systems

Image: SDA

The Space Development Agency (SDA) has tapped the providers to build its next batch of satellites. The agency announced yesterday that it awarded contracts worth ~$1.3B for 100 satellites to fill out Tranche 2 of the network’s Transport layer, a part of its Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA) in LEO. (More on all that lingo in a minute.)

The awardees:

  • Northrop Grumman ($NOC) will supply 38 satellites under a $732M contract
  • York Space Systems will supply the remaining 62 satellites under a $617M contract

Building proliferation: The SDA is working on building a distributed mesh satellite network that can quickly disseminate information—missile warning and positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) pings, for example—wherever it’s needed on the ground.

“It’s going to enable that data creation and pointed deployment with the least possible latency so that the warfighter can actually do the missions that they need to do on a much more efficient basis,” Frank Turner, technical director of the SDA, told Payload last year. 

The PWSA consists of several “layers” that provide different capabilities, deployed in “tranches,” or batches. The Transport layer is responsible for connecting the mesh network via laser links, enabling the transfer of information at light speed.

The awards so far: The SDA has deep pockets, and has been awarding major, multi-hundred-million-dollar contracts for the construction of PWSA satellites. 

  • Tranche 0, consisting of 28 satellites across the Transport and Tracking layers of the constellation, launched in two batches earlier this year.
  • SDA awarded $1.8B in contracts to Northrop, York, and Lockheed Martin ($LMT) last year for 128 total Tranche 1 Transport layer satellites.
  • Tranche 1 of the Tracking layer is being built by L3Harris and Northrop under contracts worth $1.3B.
  • The agency has already awarded contracts worth $1.5B for a Beta variant of its Tranche 2 Transport layer satellites to Lockheed and Northrop.

Tranche 2: Under the contracts announced yesterday, Northrop will build 38 satellites and York will build 62 to fill out the Alpha variant of the tranche. These satellites will provide encrypted communications capabilities and transport data among the mesh network via laser inter-satellite links. 

These satellites are currently slated to launch in 2026, in keeping with the SDA’s plan to deploy a new tranche every two years (and although the batches originally intended to launch last year did slip to this year, the rest of the constellation is still targeting timely deployment).

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