The Space Development Agency Awards Contract to Northrop Grumman for 38 Satellites

Thomas Leyk
3 Min Read

The Space Development Agency (SDA) has awarded a contract worth $732 million to Northrop Grumman for the addition of 38 satellites to the Tranche 2 Transport Layer of the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture. This project aims to provide satellite communications and connectivity for the Pentagon’s joint all-domain command and control (JADC2) plan. The Transport Layer will serve as the backbone for moving data globally from sensors to shooters.

This contract comes after the SDA’s previous confirmation of a deal with York Space Systems for 62 satellites for the same project. Both companies are developing satellites for the “Alpha” segment of the Tranche 2 Transport Layer, which will have similar capabilities to those planned for Tranche 1 but in greater quantities to enhance capabilities. Northrop Grumman also secured a contract for part of the “Beta” segment alongside Lockheed Martin in August.

SDA Director Derek M. Tournear stated that the addition of the Beta variant and Alpha constellation will result in over 170 T2TL satellites on order, showcasing the agency’s commitment to launching proliferated constellations into low-Earth orbit. The goal is to improve responsiveness, resilience, survivability, and warfighting capability beyond the current space system architecture.

So far, the SDA has awarded contracts for more than 370 satellites as part of the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture, with 23 of them already launched. Tranche 1 is scheduled for launch in fall 2024, while Tranche 2 is expected in 2026.

In contrast, the rest of the Space Force currently operates around 80 satellites, primarily in geosynchronous Earth orbit. The SDA aims to increase resilience by deploying numerous smaller spacecraft in low-Earth orbit, discouraging adversaries from targeting or disabling any one satellite.

The agency is continuing its progress and has issued a request for information for the “Gamma” segment of the Tranche 2 Transport Layer. This segment will include a payload called Warlock, designed to close future kill chains. The agency plans for 20 Gamma satellites, down from the initial estimate of 44, due to the reallocation of some capabilities to the Beta segment.

The SDA’s efforts highlight its dedication to expanding satellite capabilities and space system architecture for improved military operations and national security.

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