Terran Orbital To Build Satellite Buses For Warfare Constellation26th Oct 2023
Florida-based Terran Orbital has inked a new contract with aerospace and defence specialists Lockheed Martin to deliver 36 satellite buses. Under the layered agreement, Lockheed Martin has been tasked by the Space Development Agency (SDA) to develop their Tranche 2 Transport Layer (T2TL) beta constellation.
Lockheed Martin extended their SDA contract to Terran Orbital to work in tandem on a range of accompanying satellite buses. Both companies are also precontracted with SDA to deliver the Tranche 1 Transport Layer (T1TL) constellation. Once in Earth’s Lower Orbit (LEO), the satellite will focus on enhancing SDA’s warfare capabilities from space.
Marc Bell, Terran Orbital CEO, said in a statement: “We congratulate Lockheed Martin on another big contract win in support of SDA’s Transport Layer mission. We are proud that Lockheed Martin has selected Terran Orbital to deliver high-quality satellite buses for a vital mission to connect and protect U.S. military personnel worldwide.”
T2TL: Advancing SDA’s Warfare Capabilities
Lockheed Martin is developing the array of T2TL satellites following the success of the $700 million SDA T1TL contract. SDA constellations are being designed under their Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA) programme. Put simply, the satellites will multiply SDA’s in-space capabilities by providing “a resilient, low-latency communication system”.
Once linked to SDA’s global ‘warflight platforms’, the constellations will aid in detecting and tracking missile activity. They will also perform military threat targeting. A series of launches for the T2TL constellation will start in 2026, completing both of the active LEO satellite contracts.
The T1TL Contract
Initially, Terran Orbital designed and manufactured 42 satellite buses for the T1TL SDA agreement. The buses will soon be delivered to Lockheed Martin for payload integration and testing. This follows the spring’s completion: “critical design… and manufacturing readiness review” process.
After meeting all mission requirements, Lockheed Martin and Terran Orbital were given the tick of approval by SDA to proceed. The two T1TL and T2TL satellite constellations and their buses will be developed simultaneously.
Interestingly, Lockheed Martin 3D printed a replica of the T1TL “satellite vehicle testbed” to attenuate the risks to mission success. This was reportedly performed to expedite “assembly, integration, and testing,” Lockheed Martin said. Similarly, NASA also recently additively printed a rocket engine nozzle designed to advance their interests in deep space exploration.
Ready To Launch The T1TL Constellation
Progress on the constellation is running smoothly, and the T1TL Launch is expected sometime in late 2024. With the critical design review completed, Chris Winslett, Lockheed Martin’s director for the SDA Transport Layer programs, concluded: “The strength of our relationships and thoroughness of the review positions Lockheed Martin to deliver the T1TL satellites on time for SDA’s 2024 launch.”