Date: April 2, 2023 | Outlet: DOD News
SDA delivers first 10 satellites on-orbit, two-and-a-half years from award to launch
The Space Development Agency (SDA) today announced the successful initial launch of Tranche 0 (T0) of the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA), the Transport and Tracking Layer satellites that will demonstrate the low-latency communication links to support the warfighter with a resilient network of integrated capabilities, including tracking of advanced missile threats, from low-Earth orbit (LEO).
A SpaceX Falcon 9 reusable, two stage rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, launched the first 10 of the planned 28 satellites. Once completed, Tranche 0 will include 20 optically-connected data transport satellites and eight optically-connected missile warning/missile tracking satellites equipped with wide-field-of-view sensors. A second SDA launch of Tranche 0 satellites is scheduled for June.
“This is a major accomplishment for SDA and for the whole Department of Defense. It shows that our key pillars, proliferation and spiral development, can deliver for national security space,” said Derek Tournear, director of SDA. “Through this launch, we’ve demonstrated that SDA can keep a schedule to deliver enhanced capabilities every two years. This revolutionary approach is enabled by growth in the commercial marketplace, allowing the PWSA to move forward to deliver warfighting capabilities in each future tranche.”
The launch, originally scheduled for March 30, was delayed out of an abundance of caution to investigate technical issues with the launch vehicle. Today’s T0 Launch carried 10 satellites. York Space Systems provided eight Transport and SpaceX provided two Tracking satellites. To fully populate Tranche 0, York Space Systems and Lockheed Martin will produce 10 Transport satellites each, for a total of 20 T0 Transport satellites. SpaceX and L3Harris will provide four Tracking satellites each for a total of eight T0 satellites. Tranche 0 ground support is provided by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.
SDA awarded firm-fixed-price contracts for T0 satellites resulting in a cost of approximately $15 million per Transport satellite and is fielding the constellation approximately 30 months after authority-to-proceed on each contract.
The T0 demonstration constellation will fly in two orbital planes at an altitude of approximately 1,000 km. Once on orbit, the satellites must undergo a period of test and checkout of the bus and mission payloads before demonstrations can begin.
The constellation will serve as the warfighter immersion tranche and support military exercises, including advanced missile tracking tests, in the summer of 2023 and beyond. Tranche 0 will demonstrate the feasibility of the following:
- Low latency data connectivity
- Beyond line of sight targeting
- Missile warning/missile tracking
- On-orbit fusion
- Multi-phenomenology ground-based sensor fusion
SDA plans to field the first operational generation of the PWSA, Tranche 1, beginning in late 2024. Tranche 1 will include 126 Transport Layer satellites, 35 Tracking satellites, and 12 tactical demonstration satellites (called T1DES). Tranche 1 will be operated by SDA’s groundbreaking space operations centers based heavily on commercial space operations models.
SDA transferred to U.S. Space Force as a direct reporting unit in October 2022. SDA brings a unique acquisition strategy that enables faster and cheaper capability delivery by designing and rapidly deploying a threat-driven resilient constellation of small satellites in LEO. SDA programs provide an integral part of the national security hybrid space architecture in the areas of communications, data transport, and missile warning.