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SDA Seeks Bids For 54 Hypersonic Missile-Tracking Satellites

The Space Development Agency (SDA) has release a solicitation for the procurement of 54 satellites equipped with advanced infrared sensors.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Wed Sep 06 2023Written by Zac Aubert

SDA Seeks Bids For 54 Hypersonic Missile-Tracking Satellites Contract

In a significant step toward enhancing the United States' missile detection and early-warning capabilities, the Space Development Agency (SDA) has release a solicitation for the procurement of 54 satellites equipped with advanced infrared sensors.

SDA's request for proposals states, "The Tranche 2 Tracking Layer prototyping effort will accelerate the capability to provide global, persistent indications, detection, warning, tracking, and identification of conventional and advanced missile threats, including hypersonic missile systems."

Credit: Space Development Agency

The fully deployed Tranche 2 Tracking Layer is envisioned as a network of satellites operating in low Earth orbit, approximately 1,000 kilometers above and will include more than 100 space vehicles across multiple planes. Each satellite will be equipped with essential components, including an infrared sensor payload, optical communications terminals, as well as Ka-band and S-band communications payloads, making them critical assets for bolstering the nation's defense and security capabilities in the increasingly complex realm of space.

While the initial solicitation is for 54 satellites, SDA has indicated that additional procurement may occur based on available funding. These satellites are scheduled to be deployed across six orbital planes as early as 2027, with each plane launched on a dedicated national security space mission using either United Launch Alliance or SpaceX rockets.

The solicitation, which outlines the requirements for the project, sets the deadline for proposal submissions on October 5, 2023.

This initiative comes after the successful acquisition of Tranche 0 Tracking Layer satellites from SpaceX and L3Harris, as well as the order of 14 Tranche 1 satellites from L3Harris, 14 from Northrop Grumman, and seven from Raytheon Technologies. Thus far, only the SpaceX tracking satellites have been launched into orbit.

While the exact number of vendors selected for this new contract remains undisclosed, SDA has expressed its intention to divide the contract among multiple companies.

Leaders of the U.S. Space Force emphasize that the Tracking Layer will significantly bolster the Department of Defense's (DoD) existing missile-warning satellite capabilities, which are situated at much higher altitudes in geostationary Earth orbits. It has been noted that DoD intends to phase out the procurement of geostationary satellites due to their lengthy development timelines, averaging around seven years. Meanwhile, China is actively pursuing the rapid development of new satellite constellations, further underlining the urgency of this initiative.

Who Is SDA?

The Space Development Agency, a component of the United States Space Force, has coined its layered satellite network as the "Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture." This architecture comprises a Transport Layer of interconnected communications satellites tasked with transmitting data collected by the Tracking Layer's missile-detection and early-warning sensor satellites.