An artist’s illustration shows the functions of the Space Development Agency’s satellite constellation.

Space Development Agency

The Pentagon’s Space Development Agency on Monday announced $1.3 billion in contracts to York Space and Northrop Grumman to build communications satellites.

SDA is having the two companies build 100 satellites as part of a network built by the U.S. military called the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA). These satellites are prototypes of the “Alpha” variant in the “Tranche 2 Transport Layer” constellation, also known as T2TL-Alpha, to provide encrypted communications.

Under the T2TL Alpha awards, Northrop Grumman will build 38 “data transport” satellites for $732 million, while York will build 62 satellites for $617 million. The SDA’s schedule calls for the T2TL satellites to launch in 2026.

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Northrop’s award to build Alpha variant satellites for T2TL comes months after the defense giant won an SDA contract for Beta variants. In August, Northrop won a $733 million contract with Lockheed Martin to build 36 satellites for PWSA’s T2TL Beta segment.

The Pentagon is increasingly ambitious in space and sees the need to keep pace with China’s growing capabilities in an area that has far-reaching implications for national security efforts on Earth. In particular, the Space Force’s budget has increased: $30 billion was requested for the 2024 fiscal year. Much of this funding goes to defense contractors and space companies that provide products and services to the military.

The first satellites of the SDA system started in April. This Tranche 0 satellites were the first attempt to demonstrate the feasibility of the SDA network.

SDA has previously awarded contracts to SpaceX and L3Harris in addition to Northrop, York and Lockheed to build and operate satellites in its fleet.

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