The Space Development Agency's Transport Layer is a mesh network of satellites in low Earth orbit that will talk to each other and relay data to military forces on the ground. Credit: SDA

WASHINGTON — The Space Development Agency in recent months acquired 28 satellites that it plans to launch in 2022. It is now preparing for its next big procurement of up to 150 satellites to be launched in late 2024.

In a request for information issued Oct. 23, the SDA asks vendors to pitch ideas for the next layer of satellites known as Tranche 1. Responses are due Nov. 13.

Tranche 1 is envisioned to have approximately 100 to 150 space vehicles developed and manufactured by multiple vendors, to be launched in late fiscal year 2024, says the SDA request.

Tranche 1 will be a “proliferation of very similar space vehicles to those launched for the Tranche 0 Transport Layer with incremental and minimal technology enhancements but remains open to other options presented by industry,” according to the RFI.

The 28 satellites in Tranche 0 include 20 for a Transport Layer of data-relay satellites and eight are for a missile-warning Tracking Layer. 

Lockheed Martin and York Space Systems are manufacturing the 20 Transport Layer satellites. SpaceX and L3Harris are producing eight for the Tracking Layer. There will be a new competition for Tranche 1 that will be open to any bidder. 

SDA plans to release separate solicitations for Tranche 1 space and ground segments. A request for proposals for the Tranche 1 Transport Layer is expected in summer 2021.

The agency says it “significantly prefers comprehensive solutions that include open architectures,” meaning buses that support multiple payloads and software applications, and leverage commoditized satellite technologies.

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...