WASHINGTON — Small satellite manufacturers Hera Systems and LeoStella are teaming up to compete for a large military contract to be awarded this fall by the U.S. Space Development Agency.

The companies announced Aug. 28 they are partnering with an undisclosed prime contractor in a bid for the Space Development Agency (SDA) Tranche 2 Transport Layer Alpha, a procurement of 100 satellites to be split between two teams

SDA is building a large constellation called the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture that includes a Transport Layer of interconnected communications satellites and a Tracking Layer of missile-detection and warning sensor satellites. 

Hera Systems, headquartered in San Jose; and LeoStella, based in Tukwila, Washington, plan to jointly manufacture satellite buses for SDA and for other government and commercial customers.

‘Leoness’ satellite bus

In the bid submitted to SDA in late July, Hera Systems and LeoStella are offering the Leoness satellite bus designed by Hera Systems, said Roger Roberts, CEO of Hera Systems. The Leoness bus was selected for the U.S. Space Force’s Tetra 5 in-orbit refueling experiment planned for 2025.

LeoStella, co-owned by Thales Alenia Space and the geospatial intelligence firm BlackSky, has excess capacity at its factory and has been seeking opportunities in the defense market. 

“This collaboration allows us to jointly mitigate capacity and supply chain risks that other manufacturers face independently,” said Roberts.

Tim Kienberger, CEO of LeoStella, said SDA needs a diversity of suppliers to meet an ambitious schedule to launch hundreds of satellites over the next several years. The agency is “really after price and schedule,” said Kienberger. “SDA wants to capture the pricing and efficiencies of the commercial marketplace.”

Roberts said the partnership with LeoStella seeks to “address what we know are real challenges, supply chain challenges and schedule challenges” across the industry.  

Kienberger said the agreement with Hera Systems will allow LeoStella to continue to produce satellites for commercial customers and still meet SDA’s schedule if they win a contract from the agency.

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...