WASHINGTON — Maxar Technologies announced July 24 that its new satellite bus designed for low Earth orbit constellations passed a critical design review.

The company will produce 16 of the Maxar 300 series buses for L3Harris Technologies. Each bus is about the width of a conventional oven. These will be used to build missile-detecting sensor satellites for the Space Development Agency’s Tranche 1 Tracking Layer program. 

L3Harris in July won a $700 million contract from SDA to produce 14 satellites for the Tracking Layer Tranche 1, plus two additional satellites for a missile-tracking demonstration. 

Deliveries in early 2024

“We are on schedule to begin production of our platforms later this year with initial deliveries in early 2024,” said Chris Johnson, Maxar’s senior vice president and general manager for space.

SDA plans to start launching the Tracking Layer Tranche 1 in 2025.

Johnson said the Maxar 300 bus was designed to be able to launch eight satellites on a large rocket.  “The dimensions help the SDA achieve its goals to significantly reduce size, weight, power and cost compared to traditional missile detection satellites.”

 The design review examined the structural design, power, attitude control and command and data handling, Maxar said.

Maxar builds satellites at its factory in Palo Alto, California. SDA’s buses will be shipped to L3Harris’ assembly facility at Palm Bay, Florida. 

The company said the Maxar 300 bus is being offered in the commercial LEO market for communications and remote-sensing constellations, but it has not announced any new customers

“We are discussing other SDA work with future tranches,” a spokesman told SpaceNews. 

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...