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SDA Awards Northrop Grumman $732 Million for Tranche 2 Transport Layer-Alpha Satellites

By Frank Wolfe | October 30, 2023
      Northrop Grumman's rendering of the Tranche 2 Transport Layer. Photo: Northrop Grumman

      Northrop Grumman’s rendering of the Tranche 2 Transport Layer. Photo: Northrop Grumman

      The U.S. Space Force’s Space Development Agency (SDA) has awarded Northrop Grumman a $732 million firm-fixed price Other Transaction Authorities (OTA) contract to build 38 satellites for the Tranche 2 Transport Layer (T2TL)-Alpha constellation, the agency said on Oct. 30.

      The 100 Tranche 2 Transport Layer-Alpha satellites are to be able to transmit beyond line-of-sight Link 16 data to military forces from space, while the the Tranche 2 Transport Layer-Beta satellites are to transmit over Ultra High Frequency S-band for tactical satellite communications, and the future Tranche 2 Transport Layer-Gamma satellites are to use an advanced tactical data link.

      On Oct. 10, SDA awarded the first Alpha contract of $617 million to Denver’s York Space Systems for 62 satellites in eight orbital planes.

      The satellites are part of SDA’s Low Earth Orbit-focused Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture. The Transport Layer is to be the linchpin of DoD’s future Joint All Domain Command and Control infrastructure, which is to feature minimal lag time communications, sensor-to-shooter connectivity, and tactical satellite communication directly to platforms engaged in military operations.

      The Alpha satellites “will provide global communications access and deliver persistent, regional, and encrypted connectivity to support missions like beyond-line-of-sight targeting and missile warning and missile tracking of advance missile threats as part of the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture,” SDA said. “The first orbital plane of the T2TL-Alpha constellation will be launched no later than September 2026.”

      In August, SDA awarded Lockheed Martin $818 million and Northrop Grumman a total of more than $1.5 billion for 72 Tranche 2 Transport Layer – Beta satellites, 36 by each company.

      While SDA had planned on 44 Gamma birds, Tournear told Silicon Valley Space Week’s Milsat Symposium on October 19 that the requirement is now 24 Gamma satellites, as SDA is in discussions with a third, possible Tranche 2 Transport Layer-Beta vendor to put the advanced tactical data link on 24 additional Beta satellites.

      SDA said that it expects to issue the Gamma solicitation by the end of this year. Tranche 2 is to have about 270 Transport and Tracking Layer satellites. The SDA Transport Layer satellites are to provide rapid sensor to shooter data, while the Tracking Layer satellites are to provide a significant leap in the detection and tracking of hypersonic and ballistic missiles.

      A version of this story was first published by Defense Daily