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Space Development Agency Director, Dr. Derek Tournear, Holds a Briefing on Tranche 1 Tracking Layer Contract Awards

Space Development Agency Media Roundtable with SDA Director Dr. Derek Tournear

STAFF:  Good morning. I’m Jenn Elzea….This meeting is being recorded.. On the record, off camera.

SDA DIRECTOR DEREK TOURNEAR:  Thank you Jenn. I know we have people in the room who don’t normally follow us so I’ll give a little more background about SDA. SDA was created in 2019 to field a completely new way for doing space architecture for the Department of Defense. And it was an architecture based on two pillars. Number one was proliferation, hundreds and hundreds of satellites to be able to -- to get the -- to get the capabilities we need; and -- and pillar number two was spiral development.  Every two years, we would go out and -- and field new capabilities, and that's -- that's what we're here to talk about today.

So that was in 2019, and in 2019, Space Development Agency put together a plan that would show how we would get capabilities to enable beyond-line-of-sight targeting for our warfighters, to be able to get data for targets to them directly into theater anywhere in the world, number one; and number two, be able to do that same mission except for advanced missiles in flight.  So we're talking about the new hypersonic glide vehicles that you see developed and -- and discussed a lot in the news, be able to detect them, track them and then eventually, calculate an actual targeting solution for those advanced missiles and send that down to an interceptor directly in flight.

And so we put together a plan in 2019 that showed how we could actually field those capabilities starting in 2022, would be our first spiral that we launch, and that's our -- our tranche.  We call it our spirals tranches.  Tranche Zero launches in -- in just 10 weeks, first launch of Tranche 0, and then Tranche 1 will launch in 2024, Tranche 2, 2026, et cetera.  And we put together that plan and that outline, and that's what we're here to talk about today, is the -- how that plan has come together with this newest award.  And this award is for our tracking satellites, so "tracking" means missile tracking.  So these are the satellites that are able to actually do that advanced missile detection and tracking mission.  And we're talking about Tranche 1, so these satellites will launch as part of that Tranche 1 constellation.  The launch is set for -- for April of 2025.  Tranche 1 initially starts to launch in September of 2024.  We have six transport, which is our data transport, our communication launches.  They go from -- from September to March, September of '24 to March of '25.  And then we'll have four launches for our Tracking Tranche 1 starting in -- starting in April -- April, May, June, July, for our -- for our Tracking constellation.

And so we actually got accelerated from -- from Congress from the original plan that -- that was submitted as far -- part -- as part of the President's Budget Request, and that's why we received funding in Fiscal Year '22, to go ahead and go out with the solicitation and start to field the capability for the Tranche 1 Tracking satellites.  That appropriation occurred in March of this year.  Two days after that appropriation, we released a solicitation for the Tracking Tranche 1 satellites, and then here we are, about 120 days later with two performers on contract, L3Harris and Northrop Grumman, both of which will be delivering 14 satellites apiece to be able to do the -- the tracking, the OPIR tracking mission.  OPIR is Overhead Persistent Infrared Imaging.  That basically just means that we're looking for the missiles using -- using infrared imagery, which is just -- just -- just outside of -- of visible imagery, and that's how we track these -- these missiles and these hypersonic glide vehicles.

So there will be 28 satellites total.  Those satellites will be broken up into four different launches, so seven satellites on each launch.  And the reason we use four launches is because as we put the satellites in orbit, we put them in slightly different locations so all of the satellites will be flown at -- right at about 1,000 kilometers and they'll all essentially be -- be what we call polar orbiting satellites, which means they'll go over the globe from -- from north to south and around the globe that way.  But they will be spaced across the globe in what are called planes, in four different planes.  And so we'll go up in four separate launches to be able to do that.

Alright, so again, just to -- to reiterate, L3Harris of Melbourne, Florida and Northrup Grumman here of (inaudible) their headquarters is local, but they are doing a lot of work out of Redondo Beach, California, is where Northrup Grumman will be doing the work.  And we're confident that the selection of those two performers will provide the best overall solution to deliver these constellations and this architecture for what we call the wide field of view, meaning that the satellites themselves can detect a large portion of the globe at any given time, and that's how we can assure that we can do a complete missile warning; means that we can detect a launch of -- of missiles, as well as missile tracking.  That means that after the -- the satellite go -- or excuse me, after the missile goes through burnout, so you have a rocket that burns for a while.  We can track that, and then if it's a maneuvering vehicle, it will stop that burning out.  The rocket will essentially turn off, and then the vehicle will actually glide, and as it's gliding it is hot.  We can still track that, and so that's a new capability that we will be providing this global missile warning/missile tracking capability on Tranche One.

Let's see -- oh, I think -- make sure.  Just to -- just to reiterate why we were able to develop this so quickly, and we believe that we can field these constellations so affordably and -- and on this rapid timescale is because we are -- we are heavily leveraging what commercial space is already invested in it.  If you look at the satellites themselves -- so a satellite is composed of a spacecraft bus piece, which is the propulsion and the -- the attitude control, the maneuvering, the electronics that do the command-and-control, and then the payload portion.  While the bus portion of that is heavily commoditized and essentially has been developed by folks that have been developing these kind of systems for the commercial space industry.  So we were able to leverage that so we can get a very affordable spacecraft bus in a -- in a means that we know that we can deliver on time.  And then the payload itself, that is specifically tied for the -- for the missile warning/missile tracking mission, and that has been developed and -- and funded largely through a lot of different development efforts by the Department of Defense, including the SDA's Tranche 0) constellation, as well as DARPA, AFRL and -- and Space Systems Command have all invested in technology -- and MDA -- have all invested in technology that have raised the technology readiness level of these type of payloads so that now, we have confidence they can be delivered on time and on schedule.

All of these contracts are actual other transaction rapid -- other transaction prototype agreements, so they're not FAR-based contracts.  They're done under the O.T. solicitation.  They're all firm fixed price.  So these will be delivered.  L3Harris will deliver all 14 of their satellites for right at $700 million.  Northrop Grumman will deliver all 14 of their satellites for right at $650 million.  So the math works out to...

(UNKNOWN):  (inaudible).

DR. TOURNEAR:  Six-fifteen -- $615-, $615-.  So the math works out to be L3Harris satellites are around $50 million apiece, and the Northrop Grumman satellites are around $44 million apiece, and that includes everything.  So that includes all of any nonrecurring engineering that is necessary to be able to -- to develop these satellites.  That includes the satellite build , and then that also includes the -- the CLINs to do -- CLINs are the -- the contract line items -- to do the actual operations of the -- of the satellites after they're -- they're launched and they're on orbit.

All right, So again, the -- the -- the primary -- the primary person -- purpose of this -- of this contract is so that we can provide for the department and for the nation missile warning, missile tracking capability for the advanced missile threats and deliver that as rapidly as possible, with the first launch occurring in -- in April 2025.

So with that, I'll open it up to -- to any questions.

STAFF:  Thanks, Derek.  (Sandra ?), do you have a question to kick us off?

Q:  Yes.  Thank you very much, Dr. Tournear.  Can you talk about the cost of this Tanche 1?  You said -- I believe that you told us a few months ago that it was going to be $2.5 billion.  So this contract is like $1.4.  So what additional costs are going to be -- you -- you -- you're going to have fund beyond this contract to get the Tranche 0deployed?

DR. TOURNEAR:  Right.  So the -- for Tranche 1 -- Tranche 1Tracking the -- the overall Tranche 1 Tracking program is about $2.5 billion total, that's the total price of the program.  So roughly half of that is in the -- is in the -- these contracts, which are the space vehicle contracts.

In addition to that, we also have the four launches.  So that's the -- that's included in the -- in the total budget.  SDA will be using the -- the National Security Space Launch Phase 2 contract through Space Systems Command to provide those four launches.  So that's -- that's -- that's the -- the additional upper  on top of that.

Additionally, we have ground -- so the ground is part of the operations and integration contract, or O&I contract, that SDA awarded earlier this year, that -- that went to General Dynamics, teamed with -- teamed with Iridium to provide that.

As part of that, they have an option on their contract to do the Tracking mission.  So they are providing the operations and integration for not only our transport, which is our communications satellites for Tranche 1, but also -- then they will be providing the -- the ground support, ground control for our -- our Tranche 1 Tracking, as well as the mission data, which will eventually then go to -- to the Joint OPIR Ground, but that's -- that's also part of that. 

And then we have -- we have integration costs to make sure that all of the data can get properly formatted and input into the overall Joint OPIR Ground system that Space Systems Command is -- is managing.  So that's also included in that -- that $2.5 billion.

And then we -- we have program management costs and -- and things like that on top of that.

Q:  And just two quick -- quick one on the -- on the satellites that you selected.  Are these much larger satellites than the transport layer satellites or much larger than the initial Tranche 0 satellites?  Can you give us another sense of what the size is?

DR. TOURNEAR:  They are.  So the -- you know, the -- if -- if you -- if you look at -- if you look at the Tranche 1 Transport Layer satellites, we're -- we're going to launch 21 satellites on each launch vehicle.  On these, we're going to launch -- we'll launch our tracking satellites, we'll have the seven on each launch vehicle, with three T1DES [Tranche 1 Demonstration and Experimentation System] satellites, which is a -- another solicitation of the proposals are actually due on Monday -- we'll have those launched as well.

So just from -- from that aspect, you can see that the -- the spacecraft size themselves are about -- about twice as -- as large as the Transport Layer, which is also larger than the ones that were -- careful on this because one of our Tranche 0 Tracking Layer satellite vendors had a very large satellite, much larger than was -- was necessary for the -- for the mission, but it -- it was -- it was what was commoditized and -- and commonly available.

So I would -- I -- the way I look at it is the -- the satellites themselves -- you know, everybody wants to -- to break satellites up into small, medium and large satellite class, and that's not a bad way to look at satellites -- I mean, it's -- it's been used for a long time -- but the way we try to break them up is we try to look at satellites that are really commoditized, commoditized in -- meaning that they have been developed for commercial industry, so they've been made in a sense that they can be developed and produced very quickly, in a factory type of model, and so that -- some factories -- depending on the -- the mission size, some factories are set up to deliver satellites that are on the 150 to 200 kilogram class, up to the -- the 600 kilogram class.  So that's kind of the -- the -- the range that we look at, is commoditized buses.

But for the tracking mission, because the payloads themselves are much more complicated, take -- take more power to operate through the -- through the entire orbit, they're -- they're -- the -- the overall satellite size is going to be larger than transport.

Q:  Thank you.

STAFF:  And my apologies, I should've clarified at the top -- if you can -- when we go around for questions, if you can identify yourselves by name and outlet, that would be helpful.  And the first question was from Sandra Erwin of Space News. 

Bryan, go ahead with a question.

Q:  Nice to see you guys.  (Bryan Bender with Politico.  Two questions.

One -- a simple one that you may not be able to answer -- but can you give us a sense of how many bids you got?  And if you could be specific on who else tried to nab this but didn't get awards?

DR. TOURNEAR:  Yeah.  So we received seven awards -- or, excuse me, seven proposals that we used to -- to make these -- these two awards.  I will not comment on who the -- who the non-selected ones are.

Q:  And then the other question is kind of the -- just a bigger one.  And I know you've talked about this quite a bit before but obviously we have missile tracking satellites up there already and have for a very long time.  Walk us through just a little bit why these are different, what kind of capability they will provide that we don't have now ...

DR. TOURNEAR:  Sure -- sure ...

Q:  ... and, you know, what (inaudible)?

DR. TOURNEAR:  Sure.  So the -- there's a -- there's a -- there's two -- two major differences, and this is important for -- for everybody to -- to understand because the -- the -- the -- number one, the -- the environment in space has changed.  And you'll hear General Hyten used to speak about this a lot, General Raymond speaks about this now quite often -- and that is historically, our architecture, it was designed in an environment that was very benign.  In other words, a -- an environment that was not threatened at all.  So you could -- you could -- you designed your architecture based on an environment where you didn't expect your satellites to see any threats.

And so because of that, historical architectures were based on satellites that were $10 or more billion [$10 billion or more] a piece, they would be launched and they would take 10 to 15 years to develop and they would operate  for 15 or more years, and that worked well in that environment.

Now we're in an environment that space is challenged -- you notice people talk about space as a -- as a warfighting domain -- so because of that, we had to -- to completely change the way that we do our space architecture.

So the space architecture now is designed to be more resilient based on proliferation.  So one aspect of that is we will have hundreds of satellites proliferated in low Earth orbit -- so 1,000 kilometers attitude -- flying to be able to provide these kind of missions.

In addition to that, for the missile warning, missile tracking mission, we'll have a second set of satellites flying in the medium Earth orbit -- so around 10 to -- to 20 -- 10 to 20,000 kilometers -- that provide -- to provide a -- a -- a more resilient backup for the missile warning, missile tracking.

So essentially, if you -- if you want to take out both capabilities, you have to take out LEO and MEO to take out the capabilities.  That's number one.  That's the biggest difference to -- to keep in mind, starting out the gate, is that we are more resilient than the way it has been done in the past because of proliferation.  But, what's also key is I talk a lot about advanced missiles.  And that's important because historically everyone used -- everyone used ballistic missiles to launch, if you were going to do a major launch, which means that I would put -- I would put a warhead on top of a very big rocket.  I would light that rocket up.  It would make a very bright flash.  And I could see its trajectory very early on.  And then I could use physics, F = ma, to predict exactly where that missile was going to land.  And that worked for -- for many decades. 

Now, as you see, missiles have changed.  Missiles are now -- I always quote Rich Ritter at MDA, you know, and he says that almost all missiles now do jinxing and janxing, is what he says, which means, you know, the missiles, not only do they launch on a rocket but then once they get up to those hypersonic speeds, Mach 5 and beyond, they can actually start to maneuver.  They can actually use the aeronautical forces so they -- you know, just like a -- just like a plane flying through the air, they can actually use the forces of the atmosphere to maneuver where they are going to land.  Those can be significant maneuvers so that if I see where the missile is going and I try to predict where it's going, just based on F = ma and the -- and the ballistic trajectory, I will not be able to predict where it's going to land because it's going to maneuver significantly. 

So right now, today, you know, we have limited capability to do that Tacking aspect, do not say -- clearly not -- clearly, we don't have zero capability to do Tracking, but most everything is designed around doing what we call missile warning, which is the initial launch.  The satellites that we're going to be launching and fielding can do that complete missile warning and missile tracking around the globe for as many missiles as -- as could be launched against us.  So we will not only be able to do the old school mission of missile warning, detect the launch and predict the impact point, but we'll be able to detect it as its maneuvering and changing its impact point and be able to send that down and be able to tell an interceptor exactly where that missile was headed. 

So I hope -- does that kind of clarify it a little bit? 

STAFF:  I'll take one more question in the room if anybody has one and then we'll go to the phones. 

Go ahead. 

Q:  (INAUDIBLE).  So where does this tranche and actually the entire program sits in the tiered missile defense system of the United States? 

DR. TOURNEAR:  So the current -- the current missile warning and missile defense architecture is made up of satellites that are and in highly elliptical orbits, polar orbits, orbits that are -- that are in geosynchronous orbit.  And then we have a network of -- of radar detection sites around the globe.  As the -- as the future progresses, so the Space Force has a Space Warfighting Analysis Cell that put together a future force design structure on what the future of missile warning/missile tracking/missile defense should look like.  And as part of that outcome, they said, the U.S. should -- the department should move away from these larger satellites in the highly elliptical orbits and the satellites at geosynchronous, and move away from those and in the future go to a proliferated layer at LEO and a proliferated layer at MEO to be able to -- to be able to do those detection and tracking. 

So since it's a critical no-fail mission, there will be an overlap for some time when we have -- when we have satellites that are both at geosynchronous orbit that are the legacy geosynchronous satellites, we'll have satellites in highly elliptical orbits that are -- that are legacy while we build up this LEO and MEO constellation.  But eventually it will go to all LEO and all MEO to be able to do the missile warning/missile tracking.  And then, of course, the ground-based radar systems will be unaffected by this.  They will still be in place. 

Q:  Thank you. 

STAFF:  Could you (INAUDIBLE) again?  I'm sorry, I missed it.

Q:  (Inaudible).

STAFF:  OK. Great. Thanks so much.  OK.  Let's go to the phones momentarily. It looks like Lita Baldor from AP had a question, if that question remains. Lita.

Q:  Yes, thanks a lot.  It's Lita Baldor with AP. Just kind of going back to Brian's question.  Can you give us a better sense of the hypersonic capabilities and what types of threats this can -- these new systems and this new tiered defense would be able to track in terms of hypersonic missiles and why that is so important?

STAFF:  Sorry, we couldn't hear you out here in the room for the start of your question.  Could you just re-run that question really quickly?

Q:  Sure.  My question is I wanted to go back to Brian's sort of why is this important question and talk -- can you talk a little bit more about the hypersonic capabilities of these satellites and there's a reference in the press release to INDOPACOM.  Sort of why is this important and can you give us a better sense of the hypersonic capabilities and how those are different than what you have now?  Thank you.

DR. TOURNEAR:  Certainly.  So the satellites themselves are designed to specifically attract not only missile launches but also hypersonic maneuvering vehicles.  And so that's -- that's important because historically we have not flown satellites that were designed to go after and detect the hypersonic maneuvering vehicles. 

Now why that's important, it's important as you -- as you see in the news, our adversaries, so primarily Russia and China have been developing in and testing hypersonic glide vehicles, these advance missiles that are extremely maneuverable.

And so these satellites are specifically designed to go after that next generation version of threats out there so that we could detect and track these hypersonic maneuvering vehicles and predict their impact point throughout the entire line of the -- throughout the entire flight of the missile.

And that's -- that's the capability we're bringing that's new.

Q:  Interesting.

STAFF:  OK.  Also on the phone I think we have Tony Capaccio from Bloomberg who had a question --

Q:  Hi there.

STAFF:  Tony, do you still have a question?

Q:  I do.  I do.  Sir, thanks for the tutorial.  Can you give -- put in laymen's language how the Tracking and Transport Layers work together?  Tracking detects and then in passes -- hands off to a Transport.  Can you use the example of last July's Chinese fractional orbiting hypersonic test that captured the world's imagination? 

If the tracking and transport leaders had been up last June or July, how might they have handled that orbiting threat?

DR. TOURNEAR:  Certainly.  So you're exactly right, Tony.  So the -- the Transport and Tracking Layers work in tandem.  So the way -- let's -- let's -- we'll start from -- we'll start from detection and I'll -- I'll take that all the way through to what the war fighter gets.  So the -- any kind of fractural orbital system or any kind of what we would call a system that maneuvers after the missile has burned out.  Whether or not it does that from -- from an orbiting system as you -- as you referenced or -- or just a -- what would be called a traditional hypersonic glide vehicle.

So as that vehicle starts to maneuver it -- it heats up. Once that happens our Tracking satellites can see it instantaneously.  Those Tracking satellites detect it. They calculate the two dimensional track of where that -- where that -- where that interceptor, where that missile is headed and continually update that two dimensional track.

They will take that two dimensional track and send that to the Transport Layer, which will send that down in -- we're talking now hundreds of milliseconds to the ground station where they will fuse all of those two dimensional tracks for multiple of these tracking satellites together.

And that means that now I can form a three dimensional track.  Three dimensional track is important because that could actually be used to send to an interceptor to be able to take out that hypersonic maneuvering vehicle.  So that's -- that's the goal.

In addition to that -- so the warfighter on the ground, they -- they don't have direct connectivity to all these tracking layer satellite data feeds.  But they do have direct connectivity to the Transport Layer.  Transport Layer gives them connection via Link 16, gives them connections via Ka downlinks and other bands.

So what -- what can happen is once those data get to the transport layer, whether that's a two dimensional track or a three dimensional track once the -- once it's several of these tracks from different satellites are -- are merged together.  I can send those data directly down via Link 16, which is an existing tactical data link that exists on a lot of our DOD platforms; it also exists on hand held type radios.

I can send that information down directly into theater so that individuals can know whether they need to -- to essentially take cover or they can know whether they can start to engage other radar or weapon systems to intercept that hypersonic maneuvering vehicle.

So if that were -- if that were not a test, the -- the event that you referenced and it were real, we would be able to detect that, we would be able to form an actual three dimensional track in real time and send that data down via the Transport Layer in real time to existing radios so that the war fighter on the ground could -- could engage that target and take it out.

 

(CROSSTALK)

STAFF:  Next up looks like, Michael Marrow from Inside Defense.  Do you have a question, Michael?

Q:  Yes.  So the solicitation mentioned the possibility of more than 28 satellites for Tranche 1 and I was just wondering whether that still might be an option, whether more than 28 might be launched or whether 28's the number that's been settled on?

DR. TOURNEAR:  What is awarded with our -- with our Other Transaction prototype agreements now but since they are OTs that's something that -- that as -- as we progress through we -- we could -- we could change but right now the anticipated plan is four different launches with seven tracking satellites each for a total of 28.

Q:  Got it.  Thanks.

STAFF:  OK.  Let's see.  It looks like Nathan Strout of Connectivity Business had a question?

Q:  Yes, awesome. Thanks.  Derek, as you went and got the center proposal for this RFI or RFP, can you talk about how the pool of vendors that are interested in building missile warning satellites for this base development agency has grown since the last award from Tranche 0? 

Is it becoming a more competitive space or are you roughly seeing the same handful of companies trying to win these contracts?

DR. TOURNEAR:  So I believe we -- for Tranche 0 tracking we had 10, is that right? Ten.  Looking at my colleagues here.  Ten.  And this when we had seven.  I'll say that they -- we -- we had -- we had new entrance in a lot of the sub-component vendors. In fact, you'll see -- I don't want to get ahead of my -- of my primes but you'll see when they -- they do the announcement for who they're actually using for their spacecraft bus vendors, you'll see that the -- we have some -- some new entrants there.

So the -- I would say that the -- the -- the overall base -- the overall base that's proposing continues to grow, it is extremely competitive.  It was -- you know, the -- of the -- of the proposals, I'll say that there was -- on Tranche 0, there was a wide range of -- from what we received on what we thought were, you know, clearly in a -- in a -- in a competitive range and -- and those that were not.

In this one, we had seven proposals that clearly had all understood the problem, had put together a -- a basis of estimate and put together a plan to do the integration and hit our timelines.  So I -- I would say that the -- the competition is -- is getting very fierce.

I would say that one of our goals was to create a market.  We're going to do these solicitations, we're going to have full and open competitions every -- every tranche, every layer, and we're doing that specifically to create this market.  So if you lose on one solicitation, it doesn't mean you're out of the market for good, it just means that in another -- in another year or two years, you'll be able to -- to bid again and it'll be an open competition.

And from what we saw on the Tranche 0, because we saw so many new subcontractor vendors and we saw good competition from the primes, I think that that market's really taking off.

Q:  Great.  Thanks, Derek.

STAFF:  ... back here in the room if anybody has questions?  Go ahead, Bryan, again.

Q:  So to follow up from my first one and -- and Lita's question -- on the hypersonics, can you give us a sense of how much the design of these satellites coordinates with what is obviously a lot of attention going into building our own hypersonic missiles and the hypersonic missile defense?

Those are two areas that we hear a lot about are not quite there yet, you know, to say the least.  So I'm wondering are you guys ahead of that in some way?  In other words, I would assume that, you know, these satellites will work, based on being able to test and run some real world scenarios against these types of new threats.

So talk, if you can, just a little bit about how you're trying to marry what you're doing with some of those other development projects that presumably will help determine if whether what you're doing works?

DR. TOURNEAR:  Sure.  So there's a -- there's two things to unpack there.  So there's the -- you know, the -- the U.S. Department of Defense offensive hypersonic development plan and then -- and then defense against -- against hypersonics.

On the first side -- so obviously everything we're doing on the -- on the detection side and tracking is all for the defensive, but as you pointed out, we are relying on some of the -- some of the Department’s offensive hypersonic tests for -- for our development.

Those tests will actually be -- the -- the Department actually has a lot of different tests planned, and a lot of those will be completed during our tranche zero timeframe.  So, you know, tranche zero, we have a launch this September and then another one in March, then we'll be operating the -- the constellation in '23 and '24 -- calendar year '23 and '24.  There'll -- there'll -- there'll be tests for us to -- to -- to use our tranche zero tracking satellites to evaluate their performance.

On the defensive side -- so we're coordinated very well with the folks that are -- that are doing that work. A lot of the -- the defense against hypersonics is being led -- that's obviously being led by the Missile Defense Agency.

Now, for those interceptors, they -- they have requirements on those interceptors as far as what kind of data do they need coming off of satellites so that the interceptors could actually use that to -- to hit a -- an incoming hypersonic glide vehicle.  And so that's where there's a lot of coordination with MDA on what their -- what their interceptors would require and the back and forth on what we provide so we can meet in the middle to make sure that we're -- what we develop -- we'll actually be developing the sensors.  It is a -- a little ahead of -- of -- of interceptors -- but we'll be working together on those to -- to -- to tie them together.

STAFF:  Great.  I'll get back to you, (Sandra).  I'm going to take a few more on the phone.  Also on the phone, I think we had Peter de Selding from Space Intel Report.  Peter, did you have a question?

Q:  No, just a clarification.  The -- the -- the defense.gov website talked about $617 for Northrop contract and here we're talking about $615.  It's just a detail but which is the better number please?

DR. TOURNEAR:  Yeah, I don't know what -- I don't know how it was actually written.  What'd the agreement come out, $617 million or $615?

(CROSS-TALK)

... $17 -- $617.

STAFF:  They're approximations because the -- the specific -- specific figure is supposed to be CUI information.  So we're -- we are approximating each of them.

Q:  OK.

STAFF:  All right.  Thanks, Peter.  One more on the phone.  I think we have Kris Osborne from Warrior Maven.  Kris, did you have a question?  (Inaudible), Kris?  OK.  All right, we'll come back here to the room.  Sandra Erwin of Space News, go ahead.

Q:  Thank you.  On the testing, I know you have launched some experiments with infrared sensors with DARPA.  So is -- is that helpful to figure out are these satellites going to work?  Because you're going to launch seven satellites or 14 satellites.  So what -- what is sort of the process for testing to make sure that the contractors are going to deliver what they're telling you?

DR. TOURNEAR:  Sure.  So the risk burn down plan for -- for that -- so the -- the -- the satellite that you're referencing that -- that we -- we -- we launched, that was with -- that was a joint SDA-MDA -- Missile Defense Agency, Space Development Agency -- mission that flew last -- last year.  That was actually -- Northrop Grumman did that for us.  That was the PIRPL [Prototype Infrared Payload] experiment that flew on the -- the ISS [International Space Station] resupply mission.  And that -- the primary purpose of that was to collect background data that we can use to validate the algorithms for the low Earth orbiting tracking satellites.

So what they -- what we got out of that was enough data to give us confidence that we can -- we can pull the signal out of the noise because we understand the background from -- from low Earth orbit tracking.  So that was done.

Next steps -- OK, so what are the next steps to -- to kind of burn down the risk on -- on this?  So the -- the Tranche 0 tracking satellites, we'll have -- we'll have -- we'll -- we'll have those launched -- we'll have eight of those launched on -- on the two separate launches I mentioned -- one in September, just coming up in 10 weeks, and then the one in March.  There'll be -- there'll be two satellites -- two Tracking satellites on -- on that first launch and then the -- the remaining six on the -- on the second launch.

Those will -- will really be able to demonstrate the capability of this wide field of view missile warning, missile tracking from space.  So that's -- that's the biggest risk reduction burn down.  Shortly after that, MDA will launch the HBTSS, which was a -- another LEO demonstrator satellite that has a smaller field of view but has a better sensitivity for fire control.  So then the -- we can show those two kind of work together to continue to burn that down.  And then DARPA is also working on their missile tracking demonstration as part of Blackjack that will -- will also go up later next year.

And so we have all of those kind of risk burn downs that will feed data into this but a – I’d say -- the key ones -- the Tranche 0 tracking, which -- which will have those eight satellites that will demonstrate this mission, and that'll be the biggest risk burn down.  And then beyond that, we've got the standard program management milestones to -- to burn down risk as we -- as we push forward.

Q:  So -- so it'd be -- would it be fair to say that L3Harris and Northrup probably are lower risk because they already have systems, like L3 already has the Tranche 0.  Northrup has the MDA program.  So did you select companies based on potentially, you know, not bringing some new system into the network?

DR. TOURNEAR:  So our -- for -- for all of our -- all of our -- all of our tranches, schedule is -- is a big -- you know, large evaluation factor on whether or not we -- we think that they can hit the schedule of launch.  And obviously, people that have technology that's more mature, whether that's been matured on -- on orbit or through other -- through other demonstrations, that gives more credibility to the fact that they can hit their -- their schedule.  And so that's a -- that's a big factor.  Price is a big factor.  And then just overall technical risk is also a big factor.  So certainly, anyone that's -- that's -- has already demonstrated technology is -- is going to score favorable in those kind of conditions.

STAFF:  All right, we have time for probably one or two more questions.  I think we had a latecomer in the room.  Go ahead with your question.

Q:  I was -- I was listening on the -- on the phone earlier, but I wanted to pop in.  It's Courtney Kube with NBC News.  I -- I wanted to ask a little bit more about something that I think I understood you to say earlier when you were talking about what, like, the -- some of the defenses of these.  So I -- I understand that this is -- there's -- it's -- there's simply more that makes it more that would have to be taken out, potentially, by an enemy, right?  So that is a defensive.  But is there anything else about these -- the -- these that are, like, any kind of hardening or any other kinds of defenses that would make these more durable?

DR. TOURNEAR:  Not more durable than our existing systems.  So we -- we -- the -- the idea on the proliferation -- so SDA gets -- for those of you on -- on the phone that probably didn't hear -- so the -- is -- the question is, do we have anything that's more -- do -- do we have any defenses on board to make them more durable, other than just proliferation?

The number-one -- the number-one defense that the -- that this constellation brings for -- for defense is proliferation.  So we -- we get resilience by -- by proliferation.  We have -- you know, we have some -- the biggest threats -- so then if you have proliferation, then you have to worry about common mode failures, so we worry a lot about cyber attacks.  We worry a lot about supply chain interdiction.  So we have a lot of protections in place to harden our cyber position and to validate and -- and verify the providence of our -- of our supply chain.  But those are really the -- the main things that we're concerned about.

Q:  But is there anything new in here?  Like, I guess, specifically with the cyber capability, is this -- is there any -- a new ability that makes these less vulnerable to a potential enemy attack than -- than previous (inaudible)?

DR. TOURNEAR:  So on -- on the -- on the -- on the cyber, yes.  So on the -- on the cyber, we -- we have -- we have some -- some overwatch systems in place that are -- that are a different way of doing cyber protection than it was -- what is -- is -- is historically done in space, so that's -- that's new.  The -- the supply chain interdiction portion for our mainline programs that are at -- at -- at geo in these, you know, these multibillion-dollar systems, we're not doing -- we're not doing anything that they don't do, right?  They -- they -- they take that very seriously when -- when you're doing that.  But we're kind of taking that -- we're -- we're doing a lot more than what is typically done on a commoditized commercial system.  So I would say that, you know, we're -- we're taking lessons learned from what's done on the -- on the hardened systems there.

But otherwise, I mean, if you're looking at -- if you're looking at defending individual nodes, I would say that any one of our single satellite nodes is not -- it -- certainly not any harder to take out than -- than one of the other larger nodes.  The only difference is if I take out a -- a large node, one of the multibillion-dollar nodes, then I take -- I have taken out a large fraction of your capability, whereas here, if I take out one node, well, you can live with attrition, and I can take out several before I start to have any degradation in performance.

Q:  So it's the redundancy that really supplies the -- like, (inaudible)...

DR. TOURNEAR:  It's resilience by proliferation, exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

Q:  And -- and the idea that in a year or two, you're going to be adding more anyway.

DR. TOURNEAR:  Right.  So if you look at it -- and so the satellite lifetime is -- is -- is five years.  So if you -- if you just look -- you know, if I -- if people say, "Well, what -- what kind of -- what kind of attribution or -- would you -- would you be planning on just as a -- as a, just a -- a rough order of magnitude?"  You say, "Well look..."

So once you're in steady state, because we're going to be, obviously, in the first 28, you know, we're not -- we're not going to have -- we're not going to have the -- the hundreds up that we would like.  But as we -- we proliferate those tranches, right, we'll start with 28.  We'll probably put another 54 up after that 28 as part of our Tranche Two, and then continue to grow that up.  And then -- and then you get in this continual replenish mode, because the satellites themselves have a five-year lifetime.  So every two years, or every two and a half tranches, you know, completely replenish the satellites.

So if you look at that map and you just say, "Well, what do you have to -- what -- what kind of attrition are you planning on?"  Well, that means that every five years you're replacing the whole constellation, so that means one -- just call it one-fifth every year.  That's 20 percent of your constellation.  So that's kind of the level of -- of attrition that -- that you should be able to withstand.

STAFF:  All right, I think we've reached our time.  Thank you all very much for coming.  If you have clarification questions going forward, I think many of you have my contact information, and Jonathan Withington, also from my shop.  So feel free to reach out to us and Lieutenant Commander Gorman can also help get in touch for any clarifying questions.  We appreciate you joining.  Again, this was on the record.  We will have a transcript later, but you know those things take a little bit of time, even with the A.I. machines these days. 

So thanks for joining, and we appreciate your attention to the exciting things going on at SDA.  Thanks, everybody.

DR. TOURNEAR:  Thank you.