The Space Development Agency (SDA) has awarded a trio of contractors a total of $1.8 billion of contracts to build a mesh network of interconnected space satellites that will form the basis of a high-volume data communications system expected to make up the “backbone” of its Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) network, SDA said in a release.

The three awards – to York Space Systems, Lockheed Martin Space, and Northrop Grumman Space Systems – are all prototype awards that together will look to create the foundation of SDA’s Tranche 1 Transport Layer (T1TL). The 126 connected space vehicles will make up the “initial warfighting capability tranche” of the National Space Defense Architecture (NDSA).

SDA said it envisions the satellites to be “ready for launch starting in September 2024.”

“These awards will drive delivery of the NDSA’s data and communications Transport Layer through a proliferated constellation of relatively small, mass-producible space vehicles in low Earth orbit,” SDA Director Derek Tournear said. “Through our solicitations, we aim to create a marketplace through two-year spiral development and regular, full and open solicitations for each tranche so that industry can plan, develop and grow accordingly.”

Each of the three contractors will be responsible for developing 42 satellites in “two near-polar orbital planes.” SDA awarded York Space Systems $382 million, Lockheed Martin Space $700 million, and Northrop Grumman $692 million.

“We look forward to collaborating with our industry partners to deliver the capabilities the warfighter needs through Tranche 1 and beyond,” Tournear added.

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.