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Agency Awards Contracts to Enable Data Transfer From Space

Sept. 1, 2020 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

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.
Launch Prep
Space and Missile Systems Center’s Advanced Extreme High Frequency encapsulated satellite mates with an Atlas V launch vehicle as it rolls out in preparation for launch at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Aug 6, 2019.
Photo By: Van Ha, Air Force
VIRIN: 190806-F-DC888-004D

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
System Boot
Marines with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, boot the system of a very small aperture satellite after its assembly on the flight deck of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge in the Gulf of Oman, March 8, 2019. Marines with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment set up the satellite to enable the ship to have secure access to IP broadband networks and command post communications from any location.
Photo By: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Tawanya Norwood
VIRIN: 190308-M-YD783-1047

"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.
Orbit View
The Air Force successfully launches the fourth advanced extremely high-frequency communication satellite being carried to orbit aboard a ULA Atlas V 551 launch vehicle, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Oct. 16, 2018.
Photo By: Van Ha, Space and Missile Systems Center
VIRIN: 181016-F-DC888-001C

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.
Delta 4 Launch
The Air Force’s 10th Wideband Global communications satellite atop a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex-37B, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., March 15, 2019.
Photo By: Van Ha, Space and Missile Systems Center
VIRIN: 190320-F-DC888-002C

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.