Defense Department’s space agency issued a call for proposals on August 30 for satellite manufacturers interested in competing for contracts to build up to 144 spacecraft. The deadline for submissions was September 1.
The satellites will be part of the Transport Layer Tranche 1 of Space Development Agency, which will consist of a mesh network of the communications satellites in the low Earth orbit that is expected to begin launching in late 2024, according to the agency.
Following the release of request for proposals (RFP), the authority wants to purchase 126 baseline satellites and another 18 extra satellites for the purpose of hosting additional payloads. They will be separated into 6 orbital planes, each of which will be assigned to a number of different vendors.
Companies are being requested to submit bids for two orbital planes, as well as the ground equipment that will accompany them. Satellites from all manufacturers must be interoperable and capable of exchanging data via optical inter-satellite communications in order to be considered interoperable and capable.
Applications are due in the month of October, and SDA anticipates awarding contracts in January of next year.
Its strategy to field a propagated architecture of satellites for missile tracking, communications, and targeting is “dependent on the accessibility of a prevalent data as well as communications Transport Layer offered by a propagated constellation of comparatively small, mass-manufacturable space vehicles in the low Earth orbit,” according to SDA.
Earlier this year, York Space Systems as well as Lockheed Martin were chosen to supply a total of ten satellites for SDA’s Transport Layer Tranche 0 program. Contracts with L3Harris and SpaceX for the provision of four satellites each for SDA’s Tracking Layer, which is designed for the missile detection and tracking, were awarded.
All four of the Tranche 0 winners are expected to fight again for the Tranche 1 deals, although none has confirmed this at this time. Northrop Grumman, Airbus, and Raytheon are among the other satellite manufacturers who are apparently competing for a piece of Tranche 1 revenue.
Officials from the SDA stated at a virtual industry day held last week that the selection of providers must adhere to the Buy American Act’s standards. Goods must be made in the United States and a minimum of 50 percent of the price of their contents must originate in the United States in order to be classified as being manufactured in the United States.
Qualifying countries, on the other hand, that have signed bilateral Defense memorandums of understanding or the international agreements with the United States — in which both nations decided to drop barriers to the purchase of supplies manufactured in the other nation — are treated the same as domestic suppliers.
There are 27 nations in this group, which includes 22 European countries, Egypt, Israel, Australia, Canada, and Japan, as well as Australia, Egypt, and Canada.