Artist rendering of the Airbus-Northrop Grumman T1TL platform, based on the Arrow commercial satellite.

42 Airbus Satellites to Form Defense Constellation

July 6, 2022
A modular, scalable version of the Airbus Arrow commercial satellite will be manufactured under contract from Northrop Grumman and launched in 2024 as part of a U.S. Space Development Agency low Earth-orbit network.

An Airbus unit will supply 42 satellite buses to Northrop Grumman as part of the latter’s effort to develop the U.S. Space Development Agency’s low Earth-orbit constellation. Northrop is one of three companies named in February to deliver a total of 146 satellites (42 each), to be launched into service in 2024 for that military-communication project. It’s a $692 million Pentagon contract for Northrop.

The “bus” is the main structural unit of a satellite or spacecraft, which carries a payload an all the control instruments and other mission-related technology.

The value of Northrop’s award to Airbus U.S. Space & Defense Inc. was not announced. That Arlington, Va.-based Airbus unit will deliver its Arrow satellite design – described as an affordable and “versatile platform suited to carrying advanced payloads in a single mission or multi-mission concept” – to fulfill Northrop’s Tranche 1 Transport Layer prototype constellation (T1TL) concept.

The T1TL will provide U.S. SDA, the Pentagon’s space defense unit, with “assured, resilient, low-latency military data and connectivity worldwide,” for a range of defense applications.

Airbus indicated it will be providing a version of the Arrow that provides more power and accommodates larger payloads than the commoditized satellite bus. It described this T1TL concept as a modular, scalable, 300-500 kg bus for the Northrop Grumman payload and future Pentagon missions. 

Reportedly, Airbus U.S. will manufacture the buses at the Airbus OneWeb Satellites factory in Merritt Island, Fla.

“The SDA Tranche 1 Transport Layer is a critical national security program, and we are honored to support Northrop Grumman and the Space Development Agency,” stated Airbus U.S. Space and Defense CEO Rob Geckle. “This award underscores Airbus U.S.’s mission to develop and deliver, in the U.S., technology critical to the U.S. warfighter.”

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