lllustration credit: Space Development Agency

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s Space Development Agency issued an open call for information from the space industry on a laundry list of technologies. 

The “broad area announcement” published Jan. 25 asks companies to submit pitches for space technology projects that the SDA might be interested in funding if they meet specific needs. 

The SDA is buying a fleet of satellites in low-Earth orbit for military use. So far it has acquired 28 satellites that it plans to launch in 2022 — 20 for a Transport Layer of data-relay satellites and eight for a missile-warning Tracking Layer. It plans to buy up to 150 additional satellites to be launched in late 2024.

The agency has emphasized the use of commoditized satellite technology to minimize development costs and keep its programs on a tight schedule. The Jan. 25 announcement says the SDA is open to funding research-and-development projects for technologies it might not be able to find in the open market. 

“While SDA primarily seeks to acquire mature technologies that can be rapidly fielded to address pressing warfighter capability needs, SDA can also make limited but pivotal investments in research and development activities, particularly when the return on those investments can be leveraged in future acquisitions,” says the solicitation. 

The SDA plans to make multiple contract awards based on the quality of the proposals. Submissions will be accepted until Jan. 24, 2022.

Some of the technologies on the SDA wish list include: 

  • Miniaturized optical inter-satellite links for space-to-space, space-to-ground, and space-to-airborne communications.
  • Low-power antenna technologies for tactical data link connectivity with multiple users, especially in L-band.
  • Secure software defined radios compatible with multiple tactical data links.
  • Miniaturized, low-power NSA-approved Type I encryption
  • Positioning, navigation and timing capabilities for GPS-denied environments, 
  • Wide-field-of-view overhead persistent infrared missile tracking sensor technologies, including focal plane arrays and processing techniques for operation in low-Earth orbit.
  • OPIR missile warning and tracking architectures with sensors of different sensitivities, operating in different infrared bands and deployed in different orbits.
  • Passive radio-frequency sensing and processing to enable spacecraft to gather intelligence from adversary emissions.
  • Automatic target recognition technologies to classify objects of interest using artificial intelligence and machine learning.
  • Novel remote sensing phenomenologies for missile threat detection and tracking and surveillance of time critical targets.
  • Cyber security technology for the defense of space data networks.

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...