The Space Development Agency recently awarded $193.5 million to L3Harris and $149 million to SpaceX to build four satellites each. The satellites will aim to detect and track ballistic and hypersonic missiles.
The contracts are for the first eight satellites for a potentially much larger constellation of sensor satellites. This constellation is being called the Tracking Layer Tranche 0 by the Space Development Agency.
SpaceNews quoted Space Development Agency Director Derek Tournear as saying that both SpaceX and L3Harris are required to deliver their satellites by September 2022. The selection is based on technical merit, but the schedule takes priority. The SDA model is based on utilizing commercial technology. He added that they have leveraged commercial tier 2 suppliers. This is an example of how they are leveraging commercial tier 1 suppliers.
Tournear said that it is to demonstrate that they can take commoditized commercial components and perform a DoD mission.
All eight satellites are set to be launched in 2022 for a demonstration of the Tracking Layer. Additionally, 28 more wide field-of-view satellites and one or two “medium field of view” satellites will be developed by the Missile Defense Agency. The medium field-of-view sensors will present a more specific target location data to sync weapons automatically.