OneWeb Satellites facility
Airbus OneWeb Satellites is located just outside the gates of Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Credit: OneWeb Satellites

WASHINGTON — Airbus and Raytheon have filed protests with the Government Accountability Office challenging Space Development Agency contracts awarded to L3Harris and SpaceX last month for eight missile-tracking satellites, putting the projects on hold until the dispute is resolved.

The Space Development Agency on Oct. 5 awarded SpaceX a $149 million contract and L3Harris a $193.5 million contract to each build four satellites to detect and track ballistic and hypersonic missiles. These eight satellites are known as Tracking Layer Tranche 0.

Airbus U.S. Space and Defense filed its protest Oct. 28. Raytheon’s protest was filed Nov. 3. The Government Accountability Office has until Feb. 11, 2021 to issue a decision.

An Airbus spokesperson said the “post-award debrief review identified concerns about the government’s evaluation process, and as a result, we have filed a protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office.” 

For the Tracking Layer Tranche 0, Airbus offered the Arrow satellite bus made at the Airbus OneWeb Satellites’ manufacturing facility in Florida, which “fits SDA’s evaluation criteria for commercial commoditized buses manufactured at scale,” Airbus said.

A Raytheon spokesperson said the company could not comment on the protest.

A Space Development Agency spokesperson said the agency is “working with the GAO to achieve fast, accurate and equitable resolution to the protests received from Airbus and Raytheon on the agency’s Tracking Tranche 0 contracts.”

It’s not clear what impact these protests could have on the Tracking Layer Tranche 0 schedule. SDA’s goal is to launch the eight satellites in fall 2022. Until the protest is resolved,  L3Harris and SpaceX cannot move forward with the work.

The SDA spokesperson said the agency is “committed to full and open competition whenever practicable and the agency understands protests are a potential and not uncommon part of that process. A stop work order has been issued to the two Tracking Tranche 0 performers as a matter of standard practice.”

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...