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Northrop Grumman Selects Airbus for SDA Satellite Platforms 

By Rachel Jewett | July 5, 2022

Northrop Grumman’s T1TL mesh satellite constellation. (Photo by Northrop Grumman)

Airbus will supply Northrop Grumman with satellite platforms for the Space Development Agency’s (SDA) Tranche 1 Transport Layer award, the companies announced Tuesday. 

The Airbus U.S. Space & Defense subsidiary will provide 42 satellite platforms based on its Arrow platform, a scalable 300 to 500 kg bus. The Arrow platform serves the OneWeb constellation, and Airbus OneWeb Satellites manufacturing entity will build the buses at its factory in Merritt Island, Florida, which is currently delivering up to two satellites per day.

Airbus will also provide assembly, integration, and test, launch, and space vehicle commissioning support services. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

“The SDA Tranche 1 Transport Layer is a critical national security program, and we are honored to support Northrop Grumman and the Space Development Agency,” said Rob Geckle, president and CEO of Airbus U.S. Space and Defense. “This award underscores Airbus U.S.’s mission to develop and deliver, in the U.S., technology critical to the U.S. warfighter.”

The Tranche 1 Transport Layer (T1TL) mesh network forms the initial tranche of the National Defense Space Architecture (NDSA) — an ecosystem of hundreds of satellites operating on Low-Earth Orbit (LEO). T1TL will provide global communications access and deliver persistent regional encrypted connectivity, serving as the backbone for Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2). 

In February, Northrop Grumman, York Space, and Lockheed Martin received prototype contracts to demonstrate a mesh network of optically interconnected satellites for the data transport system. The compares were tasked with building 42 satellites each with optical communications terminals. Northrop Grumman’s award is worth up to $692 million.

Last month, Northrop announced that Mynaric will supply Condor Mk3 optical terminals for the SDA satellites, with scheduled deliveries through 2024, Mynaric’s largest optical terminal order to date.

Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the version of Mynaric terminal.