The Space Development Agency is recognized as DOD's constructive disruptor for space acquisition. As such, we will quickly deliver needed space-based capabilities to the joint warfighter to support terrestrial missions through development, fielding, and operation of the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA). SDA capitalizes on a unique business model that values speed and lowers costs by harnessing commercial development to achieve a proliferated architecture and enhance resilience. SDA will deliver a minimum viable product - on time, every two years- by employing spiral development methods, adding capabilities to future generations as the threat evolves.


We cannot deliver without the participation of innovative small businesses in the defense industrial base as part of the United States' efforts to maintain its technological superiority, military readiness, and warfighting advantage. SDA uses every opportunity to engage small businesses and their innovative capabilities enabling them to compete for DOD prime contracts and subcontracts, along with programs aimed specifically at small businesses. In doing so, SDA is implementing the Administration's priority to reduce barriers to access and increase opportunities for small business. 

In October 2021, SDA began participating in the DOD-wide Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) 22.4 Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) and the DOD Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) 22.D Annual Program BAA. These BAAs can be accessed through or directly on These BAAs enable:

  • Leap-ahead improvements for future tranches of currently planned PWSA capability layers;
  • New capability layers to address other emerging or evolving Warfighters needs.

Through a competitive awards-based program, SDA's SBIR/STTR efforts enable small businesses to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to profit from its commercialization.

While SDA prioritizes mature technologies that can be rapidly fielded, we can make pivotal investments in small business research and development activities, particularly when the return on those investments can be leveraged in future acquisitions. You will find our agency working with a variety of small businesses with promising technologies to "seed the ecosystem."

In fiscal year 2023, SDA leveraged the SBIR/STTR program to support the development and demonstration of capabilities including:

  • free-space optical communication (FSOC) technology for optical communication terminals (OCTs);
  • high-bandwidth sensor processing algorithms;
  • advanced space mesh networking and routing systems;
  • antenna development for ubiquitous communication systems;
  • improved ground system control and monitoring;
  • space system digital twin development and integration.

In fiscal year 2023, SDA made 29 awards to small businesses valued at more than $37M.

SDA has 61 active SBIR/STTR contracts valued at more than $100M over the course of the projects.

SDA also leveraged the Systems, Technologies, and Emerging Capabilities (STEC) Broad Agency Announcement to engage small businesses in emerging research areas, such as:

  • low Earth orbit (LEO) backhaul communications studies;
  • Tranche 1 Transport Layer optical communication terminal (OCT) risk mitigation;
  • the ground, management, and integration (GMI) study to look at future ground and network operations for the PWSA.

SDA also seeks opportunities to work with small businesses to fulfill enterprise IT and support services for the agency and its test facilities, making awards to small businesses in FY23 for IT equipment at Redstone Arsenal, crypto key management and support services, and construction services at Grand Forks, North Dakota.

In August 2023, SDA solicited three specific topics for SBIR Phase 1 and Phase 2 awards through the AFWERX 23.3C solicitation. SDA received more than 75 submissions from interested small businesses and their partners.


In November 2023, SDA will release the SDA 24-P001 SBIR Direct-to-Phase II Open Topic solicitation, inviting proposals from small businesses in a variety of technical areas of interest to SDA. SDA is specifically seeking solutions to address topics that include:

  • integration of commercial sensing for the Transport Layer,
  • increased power for spacecraft bus,
  • seamless multi-level security (MLS),
  • optical intersatellite link/optical communication terminal technology,
  • battle management command, control, and communications hardware and middleware for space.

SDA will post updated Small Business Opportunities throughout FY 2024 in partnership with AFWERX and SpaceWERX as we identify specific technical topics for industry consideration and will consider partnering with other organizations such as DARPA or AFRL based on their research interests and the quality of small business proposals.

Through, or directly on, small businesses can access DOD's BAAs specific to small business and one SDA BAA for systems, technologies, and emerging warfighting capabilities to which small business can submit.

"[DOD is] committed to examining the administrative barriers that small businesses face in working with us.  And we will take meaningful action to remove barriers where we can."

Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks


  • SDA worked with seven small businesses to grow and develop the optical communication terminal (OCT) capability critical to enabling the PWSA's low Earth orbit (LEO) mesh network. SDA has tested five of these terminals in its integration testing laboratory and proven they can acquire, 'handshake', align, transmit and receive optical signals. By promoting the SDA Optical Communication Terminal Standard, SDA helps develop OCT technology and the industrial base.

Small business projects include:

  • photonic integrated circuit technology,
  • lower size, weight, and power (SWaP) components and terminals for space,
  • terrestrial and aerial systems,
  • more effective all-optical routing system,
  • more effective transmission of sensor imagery for geospatial analysis,
  • work on a transportable Lasercom Ground Station,
  • non-mechanical beam steering.

The continued effort to work with these small businesses directly demonstrates SDA's commitment to advancing both technology and the domestic supply chain, enabling more secure, high-bandwidth data transport capacity for government, and technology commercialization potential.

  • In FY21, SDA worked with Scientific Systems Company, Inc. (SSCI) to launch a Prototype On-orbit Experimental Testbed (POET) under a SBIR Phase 2 program award. POET, transferred to SDA from DARPA, was intended to space qualify advanced computing hardware and enable on-orbit investigations into data fusion, data analysis, and algorithm development. Under the SBIR, the company integrated a machine learning-based cloud detection app from BlackSky Technology Inc. in just four weeks from delivery through execution. POET was launched on the SpaceX Transporter 2 mission on June 30, 2021 aboard Loft Orbital's YAM-3 "satellite-as-a-service" platform. In February 2022, POET successfully completed initial on-orbit demonstrations of artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled edge-based processing for SDA, and successfully demonstrated integration and deployment of new containerized software on the satellite.

As a result of the successful POET demonstrations, SSCI was selected by SAIC to support the development, implementation, and maintenance of the SDA Battle Management Command, Control, and Communications (BMC3) Application Factory and Secure Interoperability Layer (SIL). Under the contract, SSCI will provide technical leadership and software engineering support to build a secure interoperable middleware layer that will ensure BMC3 mission applications can operate on the various satellite providers' hardware, enabling real-time coordination across the PWSA. SAIC is the lead integrator of SDA's BMC3 Application Factory.

Under an SBIR Phase 2 award from SDA, E-Space conducted a test in July 2023, in collaboration with the Naval Surface Warfare Center Radio Frequency Test Facility in Crane, Indiana, to validate its VHF antenna array capability with clear line of sight, under dense foliage, under ground, and under water. The demonstration from a 50-foot tower validated the satellite-to-sensor link budget and data rates. This capability could enable a new type of global connectivity to sense and track military assets across the globe while using low mass satellites.

  • Fibretek successfully completed its SBIR Phase 1 in FY23, delivering the design of an all-optical relay tailored to a free-space laser communication system in LEO. Following delivery of the prototype model, Fibretek was subsequently selected in FY23 for a Phase 2 SBIR award to build a space-qualified all-optical relay prototype.

"It's my opinion that when you're trying to innovate, when you're trying to be creative, the best way to do that is to open up the aperture of ideas. And I think small businesses have a tremendous role that they can play in helping provides some of those innovative creative capabilities that we can then leverage to build a full spectrum response to what our adversaries are trying to do."

U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, during his confirmation hearing for Chief of Space Operations


During fiscal year 2022, SDA:

  • Made 46 awards to small business valued at more than $3.7 million;
  • Issued a special notice to industry for the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture Systems, Technologies, and Emerging Capabilities (STEC) Broad Agency Announcement, received 8 submissions, and awarded more than $11 million to four small businesses;
  • Selected a small business (York Space Systems) to serve as a prime contractor on the Tranche 1 Demonstration and Experimentation System (T1DES) program.

During fiscal year 2021, SDA:

  • Received 152 small business proposals and awarded more than $8.5 million to seven small businesses;
  • Released 12 SBIR/ STTR program topics and selected multiple small businesses and non-profit research institutions for awards;
  • Selected a small business (York Space Systems) to serve as a prime contractor on one of our larger contracts in Tranche 0 - directly impacting the PWSA;
  • Provided a small business with their first shot to launch a payload (Prototype On-Orbit Experimental Testbed (POET) by SSCI) to orbit through SBIR Phase II program funding.

In October 2020, SDA issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) inviting submissions of innovative research concepts supporting the advancement of our national defense space capabilities through the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. Starting in FY 2022, SDA began using the DOD small business BAAs to gather proposals.