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Northrop Grumman Completes CDR for the SDA’s Tranche 1 Tracking Layer 

By Rachel Jewett | November 15, 2023

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

      Northrop Grumman Corporation recently completed its critical design review (CDR) for 16 missile tracking satellites that will be part of the Space Development Agency’s (SDA) Tranche 1 Tracking Layer. Now that the CDR is complete, Northrop is cleared to begin production work on the space vehicles. The company announced the milestone on Wednesday. 

      The Tranche 1 Tracking Layer will identify and track hypersonic weapons and advanced missiles, as part of the SDA’s Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA). Northrop Grumman received the contract to build 16 Tranche 1 Tracking Layer satellites in July 2022 for $617 million. L3Harris is also building 16 satellites. 

      Northrop said that 14 of its satellites will feature a wide field-of-view sensor, three optical communications terminals and a Ka-band payload for communications. Two satellites will feature a medium field-of-view infrared sensor to demonstrate a fire-control solution.

      “We are developing a more responsive, flexible and resilient space architecture to counter sophisticated threats. By passing this critical milestone on an accelerated timeline, we are closer to delivering critical missile defense and tracking technologies,” Candace Givens, vice president of Overhead Persistent Infrared and Geospatial Systems said in a release. 

      Northrop Grumman has won a number of awards for the PWSA for a total of 132 satellites. The company is in the build phase for 42 satellites for the Tranche 1 Transport layer, a data transport layer, after passing a CDR in March

      In October, the SDA awarded Northrop Grumman a contract to design and build 38 satellites as part of Tranche 2 Transport Layer Alpha (T2TL-Alpha). Northrop also won a contract in August to build 36 satellites for the Tranche 2 Transport Layer Beta prototype.