WASHINGTON — Rocket Lab USA won two contracts worth $14 million to provide separation systems for the U.S. Space Force’s Space Development Agency satellites, the company announced Nov. 9.

Separation systems are interfaces that attach satellites to rockets and release them in space once the rocket reaches its intended orbit. 

Rocket Lab will provide separation systems for 84 satellites made by Lockheed Martin and another undisclosed manufacturer for the Space Development Agency’s Tranche 1 Transport Layer, projected to launch in 2024. 

SDA selected Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and York Space to each produce 42 satellites for the Transport Layer, a planned mesh network in low Earth orbit intended to move data to military users around the world. 

Rocket Lab will supply “Lightband” separation systems made by its subsidiary Planetary Systems Corporation (PSC), a Maryland-based supplier of separation systems and satellite dispensers. Rocket Lab acquired PSC in 2021.

Rocket Lab is a launch services company but also has a vertically integrated satellite manufacturing and components business that has grown through acquisitions

“Compared to typical clamp band separation systems, Rocket Lab’s Lightbands are lighter weight, have a lower profile, shock and tip-off rate, and have attained the highest technology readiness level by the U.S. government,” Rocket Lab said.

The Lightbands have been used by NASA on the International Space Station and Space Shuttle missions.

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...