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Space Development Agency Awards L3Harris and Northrop Grumman $1.3B for Tracking Layer Satellites

By Frank Wolfe | July 18, 2022

Northrop Grumman’s rendering of the Space Development Agency’s (SDA) Tranche 1 Tracking Layer. Photo: Northrop Grumman

The Space Development Agency (SDA) said on July 18 that it has awarded L3Harris and Northrop Grumman fixed price Other Transaction Authority contracts worth $1.3 billion for 28 satellites — 14 by each company — for Tranche 1 of the Tracking Layer to detect, identify, and monitor advanced missiles, including maneuvering hypersonic ones.

L3Harris is to receive $700 million, Northrop Grumman $617 million —a price that puts the per unit cost of L3Harris’ 14 satellites at $50 million and $44 million for each of Northrop Grumman’s 14 satellites. SDA Director Derek Tournear said on July 18 that commercially available satellite buses helped to lower contract costs significantly. L3Harris and Northrop Grumman won the Tranche 1, Tracking Layer awards out of a field of seven proposals, Tournear said, but he declined to name the other competitors.

SDA’s operations and integration (O&I) centers at Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota, and Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, will fly the satellites. The satellites, which Tournear said will be twice the size of Transport Layer birds, are to fly at 1,000 kilometer polar orbits.

Tranche 1 Tracking Layer satellite launches are to start in April 2025. Such satellites are to integrate with Transport Layer satellites to provide intercept options against advanced missiles. The Transport Layer is to be the backbone of the Pentagon’s Joint All Domain Command and Control concept. York Space Systems, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman received SDA contracts for Tranche 1 of the Transport Layer in February.

The fiscal year 2022 defense appropriations law provided $550 million for SDA to accelerate development of the Tracking Layer to support U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (Defense Daily, March 15).

SDA published the Tranche 1 Tracking Layer solicitation on March 17, two days after President Biden signed the fiscal year 2022 appropriations bill into law.

In May, SDA said that it had awarded General Dynamics a $324.5 million cost plus contract for the ground O&I segment for Tranche 1 of the National Defense Space Architecture (NDSA) — a move away from SDA’s normal fixed price approach to reflect the development risk for the NDSA ground segment, namely the envisioned integration of various contractors’ satellites in the Tranche 1 Transport Layer, Tracking Layer, and Demonstration and Experimentation System.

For the O&I contract, General Dynamics is teamed with Iridium Communications, Raytheon Technologies, Kongsberg Satellite Services USA (KSAT-USA) — the U.S. division of Norway’s KSAT, and Florida-based Emergent Space Technologies, Inc.

SDA is to become part of the U.S. Space Force by Oct. 1.

This article was originally published by Via Satellite sister publication Defense Daily.