WASHINGTON – Redwire and MDA announced June 7 they have won contracts to each produce 42 tactical communications antennas for U.S. military satellites in low Earth orbit.

The  antennas will be installed on satellites that will be part of the Link 16 tactical data network. The Link 16 standard is used by the U.S. military and NATO allies to exchange data between ships, aircraft and troops on land.

Jacksonville, Florida-based Redwire, a space infrastructure company, said it’s under contract to deliver 42 high-gain Link 16 antennas over the next 18 months for an undisclosed customer.

Ontario, Canada-based MDA, a space technology provider, said it received a contract from Lockheed Martin for 42 antennas for the Space Development Agency’s Tranche 1 Transport Layer. Lockheed Martin is one of three companies building satellites for SDA’s Transport Layer constellation. MDA will supply steerable Ka-Band and Link-16 antennas, as well as the satellites’ GPS antennas.

SDA’s  Transport Layer is a low Earth orbit mesh network of optically-interconnected satellites that will send and receive wideband data to and from ground stations and mobile users. 

A Redwire spokesman said the company could not disclose the value of the contract or the specific customer. MDA also did not disclose the value of its contract. 

Based on a previous announcement, Redwire’s customer is likely York Space Systems, one of the other prime contractors building satellites for DoD’s Space Development Agency. 

Redwire in a January 2022 news release said it was under contract to deliver three L-band Link-16 helical antennas for the Space Development Agency’s Transport Layer Tranche 0. That earlier contract was with one of two satellite manufacturers — York Space and Lockheed Martin — that received contracts in August 2020 to build 10 Transport Layer satellites. Redwire did not specify which of the two satellite suppliers was the customer for the three antennas.

York Space Systems, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman in February won contracts from SDA to each produce 42 satellites for the Transport Layer Tranche 1. 

The Link 16 antennas are important pieces of the Transport Layer satellites that have to be able to transmit and exchange data with all users of the Link 16 tactical data network.

Redwire will produce high-gain antennas, a type of antenna with a narrow radio beam that is used to amplify weak satellite signals.

The company said the antennas will be manufactured at its Longmont, Colorado, facility. 

Under a 2017 Small Business Innovation Research contract with the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate, Roccor developed a deployable L-band antenna that can receive and transmit Link 16 signals via satellite. The carbon-fiber antenna boom has been successfully deployed on commercial satellites.

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...