According to the SDA, the constellation is envisioned as two planes of satellites in near-polar orbits about 1,000 kilometers above Earth, and an inclination range between 80 to 100 degrees
Fremont, CA: The Space Development Agency has decided to select two or more companies later this year to design, build, and test a new mesh network of up to 20 satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) by 2022. The project will be the Pentagon-based space agency's first step towards building a much larger constellation by 2024 to provide global connectivity to the U.S. military. SDA Director Derek Tournear stated that the final solicitation for bids for the mesh network that SDA calls “transport layer” will be issued around May 1, 2020.
The SDA Director was speaking at an online industry day. The event was scheduled to take place initially at the Colorado Springs during the 36th Space Symposium. However, the symposium had to be postponed to a later date due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. SDA hosted the meeting online and drew an audience of over 500 people. The contracts for the design and production of up to 20 satellites will be awarded as early as August to two or more vendors.
“The number of providers will be decided upon as a result of the merit and maturity of the responses that are received,” said SDA’s draft solicitation. Vendors will be evaluated in part for their ability to procure or produce satellite buses that meet the military’s needs at prices comparable to what is available in the commercial sector.
Under the contract, any design or technology proposed by the vendor and accepted by the SDA will become the intellectual property of the government. According to the SDA, the constellation is envisioned as two planes of satellites in near-polar orbits about 1,000 kilometers above Earth, and an inclination range between 80 to 100 degrees. The plan is to have all satellites operate at the same altitude and inclination regardless of what vendors make them. The satellites will be connected in space using optical links. Also, some of the satellites will have optical links to satellites that are not in the transport layer and to ground terminals.
The SDA refused to disclose how much money it intended to award in contracts for the 20 satellite constellation. According to Tournear, the agency has USD 25 million in its 2020 budget for the project and has requested USD 100 million in its 2021 budget, which Congress has not approved yet.
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