An artist illustration shows the functions of the Space Development Agency’s satellite constellation.
Space Development Agency
The Pentagon’s Space Development Agency on Monday announced about $1.3 billion in contracts to York Space and Northrop Grumman to build communications satellites.
SDA is having the pair of companies build 100 satellites as part of a network the U.S. military is building called the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA). These satellites will be for “Alpha” variant prototypes in the “Tranche 2 Transport Layer” constellation, also known as T2TL-Alpha, to provide encrypted communications.
Under the T2TL-Alpha awards, Northrop Grumman will build 38 “data transport” satellites for $732 million, while York will build 62 satellites for $617 million. The SDA’s schedule is for the T2TL satellites to begin launching in 2026.
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Northrop’s award to build Alpha variant satellites for T2TL comes months after the defense giant won an SDA order for Beta variants. In August, Northrop won a $733 million award to build 36 satellites for the T2TL-Beta segment of PWSA, alongside Lockheed Martin.
The Pentagon is increasingly ambitious in space, seeing a need to keep up with China’s growing capabilities in a domain that has widespread ramifications for national security efforts back on Earth. The Space Force has especially seen its budget grow, with $30 billion requested for fiscal 2024. Much of that funding goes to defense contractors and space companies providing products and services to the military.
The first satellites of SDA’s system launched in April. Those Tranche 0 satellites were the first effort to demonstrate the feasibility of SDA’s network.
SDA has previously awarded contracts to build and operate satellites in its fleet to SpaceX and L3Harris, in addition to Northrop, York and Lockheed.