L3Harris to Deliver 18 Infrared Satellites for US Missile Defense Program

L3Harris has received a contract to design and construct 18 infrared space satellites for the US Space Development Agency’s (SDA) missile defense program.

Valued at up to $919 million, the systems were ordered under SDA’s Tanche 2 Tracking Layer initiative, which seeks “near-global missile warning and tracking” capability to secure the homeland from threats including hypersonic missiles.

The project is part of the US Space Force’s Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture, an effort to establish a network of military satellites and other space-based solutions to aid joint warfighters during terrestrial operations.

L3Harris wrote that the resulting satellite constellation will be able to monitor additional hypersonic weapons with unpredictable flight patterns, increased speed, and low heat signatures.

Missile-tracking satellite
For illustrative purposes. Photo: L3Harris

“Space remains a growth engine, and we are well positioned to provide innovative solutions after having made significant investments in technology for space vehicles, payloads and ground software,” L3Harris CEO and Chair Christopher Kubasik stated.

“The SDA’s latest decision is another example of L3Harris listening to customers, knowing the threats and delivering value for stakeholders while supporting our country.”

Lockheed and Sierra Satellites

L3Harris’ announcement followed SDA’s update on the preferred partners for the Tracking Layer program’s latest stage this month.

Alongside the Florida company’s deliverables, SDA will receive 18 infrared satellites each from Lockheed Martin and Sierra Space, making the agency’s constellation a 54-satellite network.

All vehicles will launch by April 2027, the SDA noted.

Layered Missile Defense Progress

L3Harris signed a $29-million contract last year to design a sensor payload for the US Space Force’s medium-orbit missile warning and tracking system.

In 2022, SDA selected the firm and Northrop Grumman to develop satellite models for the Tranche 1 Tracking Layer program. L3Harris began working on the missile-tracking satellites in December 2021.

SDA launched the program’s Tranche 0 in 2020, awarding the first stage to L3Harris and California aerospace company SpaceX.

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