The Pentagon’s Space Development Agency is seeking information from satellite makers on their technologies to aid the agency’s efforts to launch an extensive array of low-Earth orbit satellites. In an April 10 application for details, SDA requires businesses who want to apply for a contract to ensure that they would be willing to satisfy relevant technological specifications. The interoperability of satellites from various providers is a major problem for SDA.

SDA’s subsequent satellite acquisition is due later this year. The space agency plans to purchase 150 satellites for deployment in late 2024. SDA aims to build a competitive marketplace where suppliers will bid for orders to be awarded several contracts. The main challenge, though, is ensuring that satellites from various suppliers will communicate with one another. The request for details said, “SDA is seeking sector input on its capacity to embrace a homogeneous constellation structure.”

SDA has already purchased 28 spacecrafts for Tranche 0 of its constellation. Tranche 1 will become the next set of 150 satellites. According to SDA, the Tranche 1 constellation is expected to be launched in 6 near-polar circular flights, each with tens of spacecrafts at 1,000 km altitude. “SDA is involved in launching a homogeneous constellation configuration with baseline project payloads on all the space vehicles and is requesting guidance on industry capability to build and grow these interconnected space vehicles.”

Optical crosslinks are a vital prerequisite for SDA satellites. Every prospective military network must be capable of transmitting massive volumes of data from one satellite to another satellite, from space to ground, as well as from space to flying aircraft. Tranche 1 satellites must provide optical inter-satellite connections and the capacity to create and sustain a minimum of three optical links simultaneously, with a goal of five or more.

The warfighter is at the core of SDA’s plan. SDA agrees that getting strong enough capabilities into the hands of warfighter earlier rather than later could be preferable. Our combined warfighting powers can receive capabilities from SDA in two-year increments.

SDA understands the importance of establishing an “intellectual pipeline” to reach ideas from all corners of society to educate potential tranches. SDA will look at architecture principles, technology architectures, supporting technologies, and evolving requirements that will allow for leaps forward in future tranches or new functionality layers to meet emerging warfighter needs.

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