SpaceX and L3 Harris have won contracts from the Space Development Agency to build missile warning satellites

SDA director, Derek Tournear, said SpaceX “came up with a very reliable proposal” taking advantage of the Starlink assembly line.

Washington – SpaceX has been awarded a $ 149 million contract and L3Harris a $ 193.5 million contract each to build four satellites to discover and track ballistic and hypersonic missiles.

The contracts announced on October 5 are for the first eight satellites of a much larger constellation of sensor satellites known as Tracking Layer Tranche 0. This is SpaceX’s first military contract to produce a satellite.

Derek Turner, Director of the Space Development Agency, said both companies must deliver four satellites by September 2022. Space News.

Each satellite will have a “wide field of view” continuous infrared (OPIR) sensor capable of detecting and tracking advanced missile threats from low Earth orbit. Each satellite will also have an optical cross-link in order to be able to pass the data to the satellites.

Turner said the winners were chosen based on technical merit and ability to quickly connect satellites.

SpaceX has proposed a new satellite design based on the Starlink bus designed by SpaceX for the massive construction on the Internet. Tournear said SpaceX is getting the OPIR sensor from another supplier but cannot reveal the name. SpaceX has yet to disclose the subcontractors for this program.

L3Harris offered a complete satellite with internally produced bus and payload.

Optical crosslinks in the tracking layer must be compatible with the optical links used on transport layer satellites built by Lockheed Martin and York Space Systems for the Space Development Agency.

The transport layer is the backbone that transmits the data collected by the sensors to anywhere in the world where the US military needs it.

Tournear said SpaceX “came up with a very reliable proposal” boosting the Starlink assembly line.

“The selection is based on technical merit, but the timetable has the highest priority,” he said. The SDA model is based on leveraging commercial technology. We have taken advantage of Tier 2 commercial suppliers. This is an example of how to leverage Tier 1 commercial suppliers.

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“We want to show that we can take in commodity trading components and fulfill the mission of the Department of Defense,” Turnier said.

All eight satellites will be launched in 2022 to demonstrate the tracking layer. The next step will be the addition of 28 satellites with a wider field of view and one or two “medium field of view” satellites that the missile defense agency will develop. Medium field of view sensors provide more specific target location data for automatic weapon guidance.

A constellation of 28 wide field of view and two medium field-of-view OPIR satellites will be deployed in two aircraft of 15 satellites each.

Turner said SDA is now reviewing bids for the “Task Systems Engineering and Integration” contract. The winner will be responsible for connecting the transport layer and the tracking layer to the ground systems.

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