SDA’s Not Done Hiring Start-Ups

SpaceX launched the most recent set of SDA satellites in Feb. 2024. Image: SpaceX.
SpaceX launched the most recent set of SDA satellites in Feb. 2024. Image: SpaceX.

The Pentagon’s Space Development Agency is launching a new program to recruit non-traditional defense contractors into its supply chain for military satellite constellations.

Satellite builders that haven’t done work for the DOD in the last year can qualify to participate in the HALO, or Hybrid Acquisition for Proliferated LEO, program. They will be able to compete to win orders for prototype satellites delivered within 12-18 months. 

Product roadmap: The initial goal is to quickly develop prototypes for the Tranche 2 Demonstration and Experimentation System, which will prove out future capabilities for the SDA’s operational space sensor network. Spacecraft built by the new entrants are likely to carry payloads that demonstrate advanced communications technologies.

Another goal, however, is to get new spacecraft builders used to working with government customers, particularly on classified missions, and prevent vendor lock, an SDA spokesperson told Payload.

Speed boost: The SDA was founded alongside the US Space Force to increase the speed and flexibility of national security satellite production and move the Pentagon away from decade-long programs to develop expensive satellites. 

The organization has 27 satellites on orbit in its Tranche 0 demonstration effort, with hundreds more on the way to track military targets, detect missile launches, and provide that information directly to US service members.

The SDA has spent more than $3B, and while it has tapped newer firms like York Space Systems, Sierra Space, Terran Orbital, and Rocket Lab, a significant share of the awards have gone to traditional contractors like L3Harris, Northrop Grumman, Ball Aerospace, and Lockheed Martin.

Still, satellite makers credit the SDA’s largesse for boosting the US industrial base to support mass manufacturing of spacecraft. 

Want more? The SDA is holding an industry day on June 17 for companies interested in HALO.

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