The Space Development Agency (SDA) is building satellite operations centers at Grand Forks AFB, N.D., and Redstone Arsenal, Ala., as the agency prepares to issue a solicitation, possibly next week, to man those centers, SDA Director Derek Tournear said on Jan. 12.
SDA is to award the contract for the operations centers early this year. The winner will provide the necessary network operations and command and control to tie SDA satellite constellations together, Tournear told a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies Spacepower virtual forum.
2022 looks to be a busy year for SDA, including launch of 20 Tranche 0 data Transport Layer satellites and eight Tranche 0 Tracking Layer overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) satellites this fall.
In August 2020, SDA awarded $281.5 million in firm, fixed-price contracts to Lockheed Martin [LMT] and York Space Systems to build 10 satellites each for Tranche 0 of the Transport Layer (Defense Daily, Sep. 1, 2020).
L3Harris Technologies [LHX] and SpaceX. are each building four satellites for the Tracking Layer’s Tranche 0–an initial SDA stab at monitoring threats from hypersonic and other advanced, maneuverable missiles able to change their impact point during flight.
2022 is also to see the integration of SDA into the U.S. Space Force under a new Space Force service acquisition executive by Oct. 1, a solicitation for 28 Tranche 1 Tracking Layer satellites, and an award for 126 baseline satellites in Tranche 1 of the Transport Layer.
“We expect to make some announcements of that [Tranche 1] award in the next few weeks,” Tournear said.
In addition, a solicitation for the 18 experimental satellites in Tranche 1 of the Transport Layer is expected by early summer.
The satellites in Tranche 1 of the Transport Layer are to begin launch in September 2024 and to provide a mesh network of optically connected laser cross links to military forces over existing tactical data links, including Link 16.
The Tracking Layer birds are to detect and track hypersonic glide vehicles, send data to the Transport Layer satellites and then to ground, air and sea forces to help develop a fire control solution, such as an Aegis destroyer.
“The Tracking Layer, by virtue of being in a low Earth orbit [LEO], versus a geosynchronous orbit, buys you a couple of things,” Tournear said. “In the low Earth orbit regime, we can detect signatures that are dimmer than what you can detect from these higher, geosynchronous orbits. That allows you to detect these targets, not during the initial boost phase when you can see the bright bloom from the rocket engine, but you can see the hypersonic glide vehicles as they’re maneuvering and getting hot.”
In addition, several LEO Tracking Layer satellites will be able to pinpoint the location of the hypersonic glide vehicle, while the Transport Layer satellites are to link directly to the Tracking Layer satellites to help provide a counter measure option against the hypersonic missile within seconds.