WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force awarded L3Harris Technologies a $29 million contract to design a sensor payload that can track hypersonic missiles from medium Earth orbit. 

The contract, announced June 5, positions L3Harris as a possible third vendor in the program known as  MTC Epoch 1, short for missile warning, missile tracking, missile track custody.

The Space Force has already selected Millennium Space Systems and Raytheon Technologies to design sensors for MTC Epoch 1. 

Missile-detection satellites in medium orbits will be part of the United States’ layered missile defense system that currently includes ground, sea-based and space sensors. The Space Development Agency and Missile Defense Agency are responsible for the low Earth orbit layer.

L3Harris is under contract to produce low Earth orbit missile-tracking satellites for the Space Development Agency and the Missile Defense Agency.

“Adding a third vendor reduces risk and non-recurring engineering not only for Epoch 1, but for future Epochs as well,” said Col. Heather Bogstie, senior materiel leader for resilient missile warning, tracking and defense at Space Systems Command. 

One-year OTA contract

The Space Systems Command said the agreement with L3Harris was funded by a congressional add-on. Under the one-year “Other Transaction” agreement, L3Harris will design a sensor payload and, if successful, the Space Systems Command will have the option to purchase up to three payloads and satellites.

Bogstie said both Millennium Space Systems and Raytheon are on contract for “one initial satellite each with the option to quickly acquire up to three additional satellites pending proven and matured designs.”

Parsons last month was awarded a $55 million contract for the Epoch 1 ground system.

The planned constellation of at least six satellites will be deployed in medium Earth orbit starting in late 2026.

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...