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The Space Development Agency is looking for proposals for 18 experimental satellites

On October 8, the Space Development Agency released a draft request for the proposals for 18 spacecraft that will deliver experimental payloads. SDA’s proposed mesh network of about 126 optically coupled data transit satellites will include these 18 spacecrafts. The 126 spacecraft that are going to make up Transport Layer Tranche 1 are scheduled to launch in 2024, and SDA is already assessing proposals. The Tranche 1 Demonstration and Experimentation System (T1DES), will use the additional 18 satellites.

“T1DES will expand the Tranche 1 Transport Layer constellation with experimental and demonstration capability,” according to a draft request for proposals. The 18 satellites will be launched in a single plane around 600 miles above Earth, with 12 carrying industry-created payloads and six carrying government-supplied payloads. Up to three providers would be chosen to manufacture the satellites and obtain launch services by 2025, according to the initial draft RFP. SDA is going to only make one award, according to the request, which was revised on October 12th.

SDA will not say what kinds of payloads it is looking for. Only approved suppliers or those possessing secret security clearances will be given access to the section of the RFP that defines the intended payloads. The Transport Layer, according to the agency, will support a variety of Defense Department customers and military units. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency as well as the Air Force Research Laboratory are anticipated to provide government-developed experimental payloads. SDA is interested in sensors and many other technologies that assist the Department of Defense’s objective of using satellites in space to follow targets on the land, at sea, as well as in the air and sharing that knowledge among military assets deployed throughout the world for industry-developed payloads.

For inter-satellite communications, T1DES satellites must utilize Ka-band frequencies and need two optical terminals. Contractors must provide fully integrated spacecraft and contract for the launch services under “delivery in orbit” agreements.

Through the fielding, development, and operation of National Defense Space Architecture, the Space Development Agency (SDA), known as the Department of Defense’s productive disruptor for space acquisition, will quickly convey required space-based functionalities to the combined warfighter to support terrestrial missions. By leveraging commercial development to attain a proliferating architecture and boost resilience, SDA wants to capitalize on a distinctive business model that promotes speed and saves costs. SDA will use spiral development way to accomplish a minimum viable product on time every two years, adding functionality to coming generations as the threat advances.

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