The U.S. Space Development Agency (SDA) issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for launch services to deliver its Transport and Tracking Layer Tranche 0 satellites to orbit.
The launch services are in support of SDA National Defense Space Architecture (NDSA)’s inaugural tranche (Tranche 0). The scope of the RFP includes delivery of up to 28 spacecraft – 20 transport satellites and 8 tracking layer satellites – to two circular 950 km near-polar orbits.
Upon award, the launch services contractor will work with SDA satellite providers on payload integration with the launch vehicle(s) and will lead the mission integration activities.
According to the RFP, the Launch Services Contractor (LSC) shall provide a Delivery-On-Orbit (DOO) service and shall determine the number of launches needed to meet these requirements, with the first launch required in September 2022, and the entire constellation on orbit as close as possible to September 2022, but no later than 31 March 2023.
SDA has awarded two contracts each for the development of the Transport and Tracking Layer Tranche 0 satellites – Lockheed Martin and York Space Systems for transport layer satellites, and SpaceX and L3Harris Technologies for the Tracking Layer missile warning satellites.
The transport layer satellites are equipped with optical intersatellite links capable of sending and receiving wideband data to and from other space vehicles and ground stations.
The capability demonstrated in the Transport Layer Tranche 0 will provide warfighters with periodic regional access to low-latency data connectivity via space-based extensions of existing tactical data links.
Once fully operational, the SDA Tracking Layer will consist of a proliferated heterogeneous constellation of Wide Field of View (WFOV) space vehicles (SVs)/satellites that provide persistent global coverage and custody capability combined with the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS) Medium Field of View (MFOV) SVs that provide precision global access capability.
When tracking layer satellites detect a threat, such as a ballistic missile, they send that information to satellites in the transport layer.
The capability demonstrated by the Tracking Layer Tranche 0 will provide missile warning and tracking information to national defense authorities, and tracking and cueing data for missile defense elements.
Tranche 1, due in 2024, will include a couple hundred satellites in the transport layer, and a few dozen in the tracking layer. With Tranche 2, in 2026, the SDA would continue to build out the system as needed. By then, the SDA would have global coverage, ensuring that the capabilities provided by the NDSA could be available to warfighters anywhere in the world.