Lockheed Martin, York Win SDA Contracts

Lockheed Martin, York Win SDA Contracts

The Space Development Agency announced today that Lockheed Martin and York Space Systems have won contracts for the first step in developing constellations of small, interconnected satellites to transmit data to the warfighter.  Each company will build 10 satellites to be launched in 2022.

SDA is charged with providing responsive and resilient space capabilities for DOD and to do it fast.  It is embarking upon an effort to launch satellites in tranches every two years to create a “mesh network” of satellites that will revolutionize DOD’s satellite systems, a new National Defense Space Architecture (NDSA).

SDA Director Derek Tournear told reporters today that the two pillars of the NDSA are proliferation (launching many small satellites instead of a few large, expensive, vulnerable ones) and spiral (iterative) development.

Today’s awards are for Tranche 0 of the Transport Layer for tactical data transfer to the warfighter. It will be followed by other layers for Battle Management, Tracking, Custody, Emerging Capabilities (Deterrence), Navigation, and Support. The Transport Layer alone eventually will consist of 300-500 satellites, but today’s awards are for a total of 20.

Lockheed Martin and York Space Systems will build 10 each to be launched into low Earth orbit (LEO) by September 2022.  The satellites will be connected to each other via optical intersatellite links and both companies’ systems must be interoperable with each other.  Seven of each set of 10 have four optical intersatellite links, while the other three have two optical intersatellite links plus two that use Link-16, a commonly used military tactical data network for communicating with air and ground forces.

Credit: Space Development Agency

The firm fixed price contracts will be paid on a milestone basis. Lockheed Martin was awarded $187.5 million, while York received $94 million.  Asked about the disparity in the amounts, Tournear said those were the two companies judged to be best able to meet the technical and schedule requirements and those were their bids.

Tournear declined to say how many bids were received because the companies have not been debriefed yet, but stressed there will be other solicitations for other Tranches and other layers in NDSA every two years.

“This is a completely new model that we’re trying to get industry to adopt. … We are trying to get industry, the new space community, to look at the National Defense Space Architecture as a market, not as a set of programs.”  Instead of thinking in terms of capturing a specific program, industry should “continue to develop on their own what they think would be the best product to apply towards our market.”  As future solicitations come out, “we’ll take the best products as they come and continue to make sure that we keep the industrial base alive … [and] capitalize on what has been done in the commercial world with the commoditization of all these smallsat products.”

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