U.S. Department of Defense
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SDA Announces Awards to Build T1 Tracking Layer

July 28, 2022
A total of 28 surveillance satellites in low Earth orbit will form the T1 tracking layer of the National Defense Space Architecture (NDSA).

The U.S. Space Development Agency (SDA) started establishment of the Tranche 1 (T1) tracking layer of the National Defense Space Architecture (NDSA) through awards made to teams led by L3 Harris Corp. (Melbourne, Fla.) and Northrop Grumman Strategic Space Systems (Redondo Beach, Calif.).

SDA awards will account for 14 satellites from each team for a total of 28 satellites, used to collect IR-based sensor data and provide network communications as part of detection, warning, tracking, and identification of missile threats, including hypersonic missile systems (see figure).

The awards include launch preparation and ground segment for satellite operations and sustainment. The satellites are scheduled to begin to launch in April 2025. The prototype awards to L3 Harris Technologies and Northrop Grumman Systems Corp.for establishment of the T1 NDSA tracking layer could reach a potential value of $1.3 billion.

These agreements account for each team to build a space segment with two planes and seven space vehicles (satellites) per plane, totaling 28 satellites across four planes of coverage.

Derek Tournear, SDA director, explained the choice of the teams, “The T1 Tracking Layer effort is a critical step toward building the National Defense Space Architecture. SDA is confident that selection of the L3 Harris and Northrop Grumman teams provides the best overall solution to accelerate delivery of a low-Earth-orbit constellation with wide-field-of-view infrared sensors for a global missile warning and missile tracking capability in Tranche 1, on schedule. I am pleased to see our industry partners building the marketplace necessary to quickly deliver new space capabilities to the warfighter.” 

The Tranche 1 Tracking Layer satellites will be flown out of SDA’s Operations and Integration Centers at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota and Alabama’s Redstone Arsenal.

About the Author

Jack Browne | Technical Contributor

Jack Browne, Technical Contributor, has worked in technical publishing for over 30 years. He managed the content and production of three technical journals while at the American Institute of Physics, including Medical Physics and the Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology. He has been a Publisher and Editor for Penton Media, started the firm’s Wireless Symposium & Exhibition trade show in 1993, and currently serves as Technical Contributor for that company's Microwaves & RF magazine. Browne, who holds a BS in Mathematics from City College of New York and BA degrees in English and Philosophy from Fordham University, is a member of the IEEE.

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