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Agency Awards Contracts to Enable Data Transfer From Space

Gerald Scroop

September 2, 2020

The Space Development Agency announced yesterday the award of two contracts for what's known as the first generation of the transport layer, the acting deputy undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, and director of defense research and engineering for modernization said.

These awards represent one of the first major steps toward developing the National Defense Space Architecture's inaugural tranche, called Tranche 0, he said.

Rocket sits on launch pad.

Tranche 0 will be designed to enable the Joint All-Domain Command and Control to link tactical data transfer from space to warfighting on the ground, at sea or in the air.  

Mark Lewis spoke yesterday at a Pentagon media roundtable. He was joined by Dr. Derek Tournear, director of the SDA.

Lewis said these awards "will initiate the design, development and launch of constellations composed of tens of satellites with optical inter-satellite links capable of sending and receiving wideband data to and from other space vehicles and ground stations."

A Marine examines a satellite component

"The capability demonstrated in the transport layer Tranche 0 will provide U.S. warfighters with periodic regional access to low-latency data connectivity via space-based extensions of existing tactical data links," he continued.

York Space Systems, Denver, Colorado, was awarded a $94,036,666 firm-fixed-price contract and Lockheed Martin Corp., Littleton, Colorado, was awarded a $187,542,461 firm-fixed-price contract. Both awards are for SDA's transport layer Tranche 0, Lewis noted. The work to be performed under this contract will include on-time delivery of space vehicles and paths to optical inter-satellite link interoperability.  

A rocket arcs into the night sky leaving behind a contrail of light.

Both contract awardees' teams also include many partner organizations, both large and small, with technical expertise, Lewis mentioned. "Frankly, we're confident that through the competition that we've run, there's been a full and open competition. We're confident that we've found the best solution to deliver."

Tournear said SDA's industry day was set for April 2. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SDA switched it to a virtual event so that the search for the right industrial partners could continue.

A rocket launches from the launchpad at night.

The solicitation was released May 1 and now the contracts have been awarded on schedule, he added.

By the end of fiscal year 2022, the Defense Department "will be launching 20 satellites from two different performers to make up the nucleus of our Tranche 0 transport," Tournear said.

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