US SDA Announce Additions To Warfighter Constellation

22nd Jan 2024
US SDA Announce Additions To Warfighter Constellation

The US Department of Defence’s Space Development Agency has been actively evolving their Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA) constellation. Gaining rapid ground, SDA have relied heavily on the likes of Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Rocket Lab to deliver the mammoth undertaking. 

But on 16th January, SDA unveiled that 54 more Tranche 2 Tracking Layer Satellites (T2TL) will be added to the in-development constellation. Three contracts, worth circa US$2.5 billion collectively, were handed to Sierra Space – the newest members of the operation – Lockheed Martin and L3 Harris. 

SDA Director, Derek Tournear, said in a statement: “we’re pleased to welcome Sierra Space, a new entrant as a prime vendor on Team SDA, as we continue working with L3Harris and Lockheed Martin on Tranche 2. The marketplace is responding to the demand signals for our spiral development model. The agile response across the space industry is critically important as we deliver to the warfighter this no-fail mission capability of missile warning, missile tracking, and missile defense.” 

Breaking Down The 54 New Satellites 

Under the Other Transaction Authority contracts, Sierra Space, Lockheed Martin and L3 Harris will deliver 54 satellites. Once constructed, they will be amalgamated with the forthcoming LEO T2TL constellation. The overall aim of the project is to establish the PWSA programme, which will comprise over 270 satellites.  

The breakdown of funding will see L3 Harris provided with approximately US$919 million. Lockheed Martin’s portion will be upwards of US$890 million, and Sierra Space will gain around US$740 million. All three contracts were awarded on a firm fixed-price agreement. However, SDA noted that should the US defence budget remain unannounced post March, the contracts would consequently stagnate. 

Projected to launch “no later than April 2027”, the 54 satellites will be segmented evenly – 18 satellites each. As such, SDA said the space vehicles will offer “wide field of view” missile warning and tracking infrared sensors. This is in addition to missile defence infrared sensors. Significantly, SDA added: “[each satellite] can generate fire control-quality tracks to provide preliminary missile defence mission capabilities.”

Sierra Space’s Chief Technology Officer, said: “missile warning and missile defence is critical to the safety and security of our nation and its people. Past winners of prior tranches for the tracking layer mission have been traditional big primes. This award puts Sierra Space on the short list of companies that can deliver, as a prime, in missions critical to the warfighter.”

Other Contracts Awarded For The PWSA Constellation

Early this month, Rocket Lab was granted US$515 million to deliver 18 T2TL “beta variant prototype” satellites. Other previous contracts were awarded to Terran Orbital, via Lockheed Martin’s other OTA T2TL agreement, to deliver 36 satellite buses. Prior to that, Terran Orbital built 42 satellite buses for Lockheed Martin who are also developing SDA’s T1TL constellation. Accordingly, T1TL will work in tandem with T2TL once operational. Equally, SDA said: “[T2TL’s] low-latency meshed communication network, [will enable] advanced missile tracking from proliferated low-Earth orbit.”  

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