The US Space Development Agency (SDA) has announced the award of $1.8 billion in contracts to three companies to establish a military communication network prototype.
The network, called the Tranche 1 Transport Layer (T1TL), will consist of 126 optically-interconnected satellites.
With T1TL, the Pentagon aims to create a network that will provide a low-latency, resilient, and high-volume data communication system. The Transport Layer is being developed in tranches using smaller, cheaper satellites to establish a more robust, adaptable network for the US military.
The three companies, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and York Space Systems, will each build 42 satellites for the project.
Capable of providing global communications access and encrypted connectivity, the optically-linked network of satellites will communicate data between space sensors and the ground. T1TL is scheduled for launch in late 2024.
‘Robust’ Military Communication Network
“These awards will drive delivery of the NDSA’s data and communications Transport Layer through a proliferated constellation of relatively small, mass-producible space vehicles in low Earth orbit,” SDA director Derek Tournear explained in a statement.
“Through our solicitations, we aim to create a marketplace through two-year spiral development and regular, full, and open solicitations for each tranche so that industry can plan, develop and grow accordingly,” he added.
As a part of the contract, Lockheed Martin has been awarded over $700 million, while Northrop Grumman received $692 million and York Space Systems $382 million for the research and development program for the T1TL prototype.
SDA’s first set of satellites, Tranche 0, will launch this year in October. Lockheed Martin and York Space Systems are working jointly to deliver these satellites.