Latest News

CesiumAstro, Mynaric, Redwire Space, and Others Selected for Rocket Lab SDA Subcontracts

By Rachel Jewett | May 7, 2024

      CesiumAstro’s Vireo payload is comprised of a receive antenna, a transmit antenna, and a reconfigurable processing unit. Photo: CesiumAstro

      Rocket Lab selected its subcontractors for its work for the Space Development Agency (SDA), announcing deals with CesiumAstro, Mynaric, SEAKR Engineering, Collins Aerospace, Redwire Space, and Parsons Corporation

      Rocket Lab is building 18 satellites for the SDA’s Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture under a $515 million contract announced in late 2023. The satellites will be part of the Tranche 2 Transport Layer (T2TL) – Beta variant. T2TL will provide low-latency military data and connectivity worldwide. The award was Rocket Lab’s first award as a defense prime.

      CesiumAstro will provide its Vireo active electronically scanned array (AESA) radio frequency (RF) communications payload. The payload will be the first multi-beam-capable Ka-band communications system operating in the PWSA. 

      According to Cesium Astro, a receive antenna, transmit antenna, and SpaceVPX form-factor reconfigurable processor enable both single- and multi-beam operation. “This cutting-edge technology will be a force multiplier for every branch of the Department of Defense,” commented Shey Sabripour, founder and CEO of CesiumAstro.

      Lasercom vendor Mynaric will supply CONDOR Mk3 optical communication terminals. Mynaric said the order is valued at approximately $15 million with deliveries beginning in 2025 and continuing into 2026. Mynaric is also signed on to supply laser communications terminals to Northrop Grumman for the T2TL – Alpha and Beta programs.

      SEAKR Engineering has been selected to provide the Tactical Satellite Communications (TACSATCOM) software-defined radio and network encryption system. Separately, Collins Aerospace will provide the waveform for the SDR, which is the software and firmware required to transmit and receive TACSATCOM.

      Redwire Space will provide antennas and RF hardware. Redwire said it will produce 18 ship sets of antennas and RF front ends for Tranche 2 in its newly expanded Colorado facility. 

      “As an antenna supplier for the SDA Transport Layer program since Tranche 0, Redwire is continuing to make significant investments in manufacturing capacity and assembly, integration, and test capacity to support multiple parallel antenna and RF production lines,” commented Redwire Space Systems President Adam Biskner. 

      Parsons Corporation will contribute to the ground operations with its Nebula Operations Vendor Architecture (NOVA), which Rocket Lab will use as the ground system for managing operations for the 18 satellites.

      Rocket Lab is also using a high degree of vertical integration on this award. The satellites will use subsystems and components built in-house, including solar panels, structures, star trackers, reaction wheels, radio, flight software, avionics, and launch dispenser.