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SDA Awards L3Harris, Lockheed Martin, and Sierra Space Tranche 2 Tracking Layer Contracts

By Frank Wolfe | January 17, 2024

      Rendering of L3Harris missile tracking capabilities in orbit. Photo: L3Harris

      The U.S. Space Force’s Space Development Agency (SDA) said on Jan. 16 that it has awarded contracts worth up to $2.5 billion to three companies for 54 infrared sensor-equipped satellites in the Tranche 2, Tracking Layer of the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture for detecting hypersonic and ballistic missiles and developing high-fidelity fire control tracks to intercept those missiles.

      L3Harris Technologies won an Other Transaction Authority (OTA) firm, fixed-price contract of up to $919 million, Lockheed Martin up to $890 million, and Sierra Space — a new SDA awardee – up to $740 million.

      An SDA official, speaking on background to reporters in an SDA-arranged Zoom call on Jan. 16, said that contract work would begin in about a month with a systems requirement review in advance of expected preliminary design reviews this fall and critical design reviews in the spring of next year.

      SDA said that it received nine bids for the three contracts and that each of the winning contractors is to build 16 wide field-of-view missile warning/missile tracking satellites and two fire control satellites to generate “fire control-quality tracks to provide preliminary missile defense mission capabilities.” The MW/MT satellites have a unit cost of $46 million, while the fire control satellites have a unit cost of $52 million–an amount SDA said it hopes to reduce through economies of scale.

      The 54 Tracking Layer, Tranche 2 satellites are to launch by April 2027.

      Under the fiscal 2024 Continuing Resolution, SDA was “able to award these contracts and get started with the kickoff and some initial milestones, but we certainly need a budget passed in March or earlier,” the SDA official said on Jan. 16. “Otherwise, we have to make some tough decisions on how we execute our programs.” The official declined to be more specific.

      SDA said that the fire control satellites will leverage Missile Defense Agency (MDA) work on the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensors (HBTSS) demonstration program and “novel approaches from industry to accelerate global missile defense capability.”

      The Tracking Layer satellites are to benefit missile defense systems, such as the future Glide Phase Interceptor.

      This story was first published by Defense Daily.