Northrop Grumman
Illustration of SDA's Tranche 2 Transport Layer-Beta Data Transport Layer

U.S. Orders New Missile-Defense Satellites

Aug. 23, 2023
The Space Development Agency placed contracts totaling $1.5 billion for a total of 72 new satellites from Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to expand defense constellation for communications, targeting, and tracking.

The U.S. Space Development Agency (SDA) placed contracts with Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. to supply a total of 72 data transport satellites as part of SDA’s low-Earth orbit Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA).

The Agency noted the new satellites will form Tranche 2 Transport Layer Beta (T2TL Beta), integrating with and expanding the PWSA mesh network (Tranche 1), using high-data-capacity optical crosslinks to deliver accessible, near-real time communications to U.S. warfighters and defensive platforms operating worldwide. Examples of this include “beyond-line-of-sight targeting and missile warning and missile tracking of advance missile threats.”

The total value of the new awards is approximately $1.5 billion, according to SDA.

The Space Development Agency is a U.S. Space Force unit assigned to implement space-based missile defense using global constellations made up of low-cost satellites.

The 36 satellites to be supplied by Northrop will be updated versions of its Tranche 1 design, and provide new broadcast and tactical communications capabilities to PWSA.

According to Lockheed, the 36 satellites it will deliver will work in tandem with SDA’s Tranche 1 and Tranche 2 networks to advance the initial warfighting capability with targeted technology enhancements, mission-focused payload configurations, and increased integration.

“We are now solidly in the procurement phase for Tranche 2 of the PWSA to support a 2026 delivery,” explained SDA director Derek Tournear. “Tranche 2 brings global persistence for all our capabilities in Tranche 1 and adds advanced tactical data links and future proliferated missions. The Beta variant of the Tranche 2 Transport Layer vehicles are similar to Tranche 1 Transport Layer vehicles while also integrating advanced tactical communication technology demonstrated by the Tranche 1 Development and Experimentation System (T1DES).”

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