SpaceX, L3Harris Win Space Development Agency Awards After Unsuccessful Challenges

National Defense Space Architecture tracking layer. (Credit: Department of Defense)

The Space Development Agency has reaffirmed its decision to award contracts to build missile warning satellites to L3Harris and SpaceX following unsuccessful appeals by rival bidders.

L3Harris and SpaceX will each build four satellites to detect and track ballistic and hypersonic missiles as part of the agency’s Tracking Layer Tranche 0 program. L3Harris received a $193.5 million contract while SpaceX’s contract is worth $149 million.

The Space Development Agency awarded the contracts in October. However, the agency placed issued temporary stop-work orders after Airbus and Raytheon filed protests with the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

SpaceNews reports that the Space Development Agency agreed to reevaluate the selection process in response to the protests. The second review reaffirmed the original decision to award the contracts to L3Harris and SpaceX. GAO has dismissed the protests filed by Airbus and Raytheon.

SpaceX Wins $150 Million Launch Contract from SDA

The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich ocean observation satellite lifted off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 9:17 a.m. PST (12:17 p.m. EST) Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (Credits: NASA TV)

SpaceX has won an $150.45 million contract from the Pentagon’s Space Development Agency (SDA) to launch up to 28 satellites.

SpaceX will conduct the first of two launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in September 2022. SDA wants the entire 28-satellite constellation in orbit by March 31, 2023.

SDA’s constellation will be composed of small and medium size spacecraft, with 20 data-relay and eight missile-warning satellites.

The satellites will be divided into two planes of 14 spacecraft each deployed in 950 km high near-polar orbits.

Airbus, Raytheon Protest SDA Contract Awards to SpaceX & L3Harris

National Defense Space Architecture tracking layer. (Credit: Department of Defense)

Raytheon and Airbus US Space and Defense have filed formal protests with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) over the Space Development Agency’s (SDA) decision to award contracts worth $342.5 million to L3Harris Technologies and SpaceX to build eight missile warning satellites.

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DOD Official Outlines Space Strategy

WASHINGTON (DOD PR) — In June, the Defense Department released its Space Strategy document. That document lays out the department’s four-pillar strategy for work that needs to be done in space within the next decade and beyond.

Justin T. Johnson, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, discussed that strategy at a virtual Heritage Foundation event today.

The first line of effort, he said, is for the U.S. Space Force to build a comprehensive military advantage in space.

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L3Harris, SpaceX Win SDA Contracts to Build Missile Tracking Satellites

National Defense Space Architecture tracking layer. (Credit: Department of Defense)

WASHINGTON (DOD PR) — The Space Development Agency announced today that two companies won bids to build out Tranche 0 of the tracking layer for the National Defense Space Architecture. Together, those contracts amount to more than $342 million.

Both L3Harris Technologies, Inc., of Melbourne, Florida, and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., of Hawthorne, California, also known as SpaceX, were successful in their bids to participate in the NDSA.

Each company is expected to build four overhead persistent infrared imaging, or OPIR, satellites for the tracking layer of the NDSA. Those satellites should be ready by the end of fiscal year 2022.

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Lockheed Martin To Build 10 Small Satellite Mesh Network In Two Years

Tranche 0 architecture. Numerical values are notional. (Credit: SDA)

LITTLETON, Colo., Sept. 1, 2020 (Lockheed Martin PR) – The Space Development Agency (SDA) awarded a Tranche 0 contract of the Space Transport Layer to Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) to demonstrate a mesh network of 10 small satellites that links terrestrial warfighting domains to space sensors – all launching in just two years.

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Space Development Agency Awards Satellite Contracts to Lockheed Martin, York Space System

Tranche 0 architecture. Numerical values are notional. (Credit: SDA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Pentagon’s Space Development Agency (SDA) has awarded Lockheed Martin and York Space Systems contracts worth a combined $281.5 million to build 20 communications satellites that will beam data to military forces around the world.

Lockheed Martin’s contract is worth $187.5 million. York Space Systems received a contract worth $94 million. Each company will provide 20 satellites.

The contract awards are part of the Transport Tranche 0, which aims to create “an interoperable mesh network of tens of satellites to provide periodic low-latency and high-capacity data connectivity,” according to program documents.

The spacecraft will have optical cross links and networking that will allow them to communicate with each other. They will also have Link 16 military tactical data link network and Integrated Broadcast Service (IBS) payloads.

“The Transport Layer will serve as the backbone of the architecture by providing assured, resilient, low-latency military data and connectivity worldwide to a full range of warfighter applications,” SDA said.

All 20 satellites are to be launched by September 2022.

Mike Griffin Sets Up Consulting Firm, Joins Rocket Lab Board

Mike Griffin

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Fresh off a short-lived and rocky tenure overseeing the establishment of the Pentagon’s new Space Development Agency (SDA), former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin has set up a consulting firm and joined Rocket Lab’s Board of Directors.

“We are honored to welcome Mike to Rocket Lab’s board of directors,” said Rocket Lab founder and Chief Executive Peter Beck in a press release. “He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from the civil, defense, and commercial space sectors that will be invaluable to our team as Rocket Lab continues to grow and meet the ever-evolving launch and space systems needs of the national security community and commercial sectors alike.”

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Griffin, Porter to Depart Defense Department

Mike Griffin

Defense Department Undersecretary for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin and his deputy, Lisa Porter, have resigned from their posts effective June 10 to jointly pursue an unidentified opportunity in the private sector, Breaking Defense reports.

Griffin, who previously served as NASA administrator, was brought on board in February 2019 to overhaul the Pentagon’s costly and time-consuming research, development and procurement systems through the newly established Space Development Agency (SDA) and other measures.

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General Atomics Partners with Space Development Agency to Demonstrate Optical Intersatellite Link

SAN DIEGO, CA, June 5, 2020 (General Atomics PR) — General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) announced today that it has partnered with the U.S. Space Development Agency (SDA) to demonstrate and conduct a series of experiments for an Optical Intersatellite Link (OISL) utilizing GA-EMS’s internally developed 1550nm (nanometer) wavelength laser communication terminals (LCTs).

This will be one of the first Department of Defense contracted efforts to develop and deploy a state-of-the-art 1550nm LCT to test capabilities to increase the speed, distance, and variability of communications in space.

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Space Development Agency Releases Solicitations for New Technology

The Defense Department’s new Space Development Agency (SDA) has recently issued several solicitations as it looks to create a large satellite constellation and other systems.

On Jan. 21, SDA issued a broad agency announcement seeking “executive summaries, proposal abstracts and proposals for novel architecture concepts, systems, technologies, and capabilities that enable leap-ahead improvements” in military space systems covering the areas of transportation, tracking, battle management, navigation, deterrence and support.

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Legislation to Create Space Force as 6th Branch of Armed Forces

The White House and Congress have worked out a deal that will establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the Armed Services in exchange for 12 weeks of paid leave for federal employees with newborn babies.

The details of the Space Force taken from a summary of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) are below.

Space Force

The FY20 NDAA recognizes space as a warfighting domain and establishes the U.S. Space Force in Title 10 as the sixth Armed Service of the United States, under the U.S. Air Force. In doing so, the NDAA provides the Secretary of the Air Force with the authority to transfer Air Force personnel to the newly established Space Force. To minimize cost and bureaucracy, the Space Force will require no additional billets and remains with the President’s budget request.

The conference agreement creates a Chief of Space Operations (CSO) for the U.S. Space Force who will report directly to the Secretary of the Air Force and become a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During the first year, the CSO may also serve as the Commander of U.S. Space Command. The CSO will provide updates to the committees of jurisdiction every 60 days, with briefings and reports on implementation and establishment status. The conference report also creates:

  • A Senate-confirmed Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration, as the senior space architect, who will:
    • Provide a renewed focus on the acquisition of space systems as the Chair of the Space Force Acquisition Council, ensuring integration across the national security space enterprise;
    • Synchronize with the Air Force Service Acquisition Executive on all space system efforts, and take on Service Acquisition Executive responsibilities for space systems and programs effective on October 1, 2022; and
    • Oversee and direct the Space and Missile Systems Center, Space Rapid Capabilities Office, and Space Development Agency.
  • An Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy as the senior civilian in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for oversight of space warfighting.

Derek Tournear Named Director of DOD’s Space Development Agency

Derek Tournear

WASHINGTON (DoD PR) — The Department of Defense (DoD) today announced the selection of Dr. Derek Tournear as the first permanent director of the Space Development Agency. 

Established in March, the Space Development Agency is responsible for unifying and integrating the Department’s space development efforts, monitoring the Department’s threat-driven future space architecture, and accelerating fielding of new military space capabilities necessary to ensure U.S. technological and military advantages in space. To achieve this mission, SDA is defining the National Defense Space Architecture—an integrated, coherent architecture capable of addressing the eight critical, yet unmet, priorities of the DoD Space Vision.

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Mike Griffin Alienating Friends & Enemies Alike, Firing Scientists at New Pentagon Job

Mike Griffin

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin has had a tumultuous time since taking over as undersecretary of defense for research and engineering in February.

In his role as the Defense Department’s chief technology officer, Griffin has been criticized for his efforts to overhaul the Pentagon’s costly and time-consuming development and procurement of new systems through the newly established Space Development Agency (SDA).

Key personnel have departed as critics have attacked Griffin for what they view as his erratic management and decision making. In addition to SDA, he is in charge of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU).

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Space Development Agency Seeks Next-Gen Architecture in First RFI

Figure 1: Notional architecture from SDA 60-day study. (Credit: Space Development Agency)

Space Development Agency
Next-Generation Space Architecture
Request for Information
SDA-SN-19-0001
July 1, 2019
[Full Solicitation]

SDA requests information from industry related to satellite bus, payload, applique, and launch concepts that can contribute to an agile, responsive next-generation space architecture. SDA has developed a notional suite of capabilities, as depicted in Figure 1, to include multiple constellations (or “layers”) addressing the eight priorities listed above. Each layer provides an integral and integrated capability to the overall architecture.

The SDA’s notional architecture is predicated on the availability of a ubiquitous data and communications transport layer and assumes the use of small, mass-produced satellites (50-500 kg) and associated payload hardware and software. The SDA is considering the use of transport layer spacecraft as substrates for other layers, allowing for the integration of appropriate payloads based on each layer’s needs.

Seven layers are proposed:

  1. Space Transport Layer: Global, persistent, low-latency data and communications proliferated “mesh” network to provide 24×7 global communications.
  2. Tracking Layer: Indications, warning, targeting, and tracking of advanced missile threats.
  3. Custody Layer: 24×7, all-weather custody of all identified time-critical targets.
  4. Deterrence Layer: Space Situational Awareness (SSA) of, and rapid access to, the cislunar volume.
  5. Navigation Layer: Alternate Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) for GPS-denied environments.
  6. Battle Management Layer: Distributed, artificial intelligence-enabled Battle Management Command, Control and Communications (BMC3), to include self-tasking, self-prioritization (for collection), on-board processing, and dissemination, supporting delivery of perishable space sensor-derived data products directly to tactical users.
  7. Support Layer: Mass-producible ground command and control capabilities, user terminals, and rapid-response launch services (small- to medium-class).

Proposed concepts should align to one or more of the layers described above. SDA prefers comprehensive solutions that include open architectures (e.g., buses that support multiple payloads and software appliques, and payloads/software capable of integration aboard multiple buses) and leverage commercial capabilities, existing or planned.