The Space Development Agency announced in October that SpaceX and L3Harris would each build four missile tracking satellites. These satellites would build out the Tranche 0 part of the tracking layer for the National Defense Space Architecture, but both Raytheon and Airbus have filed several protests that have brought finishing the contracts to a halt.
It is unknown how many proposals where submitted, but the four players in questions are Airbus, Raytheon, SpaceX, and L3Harris. Back at the end of October, Airbus filed a complaint to the Government Accountability Office challenging the rewards to SpaceX and L3Harris. This was quickly followed by another complaint by Raytheon in early November. With these challenges in place, the SDA decided to enact a corrective action to re-evaluate bids to the contract, but this hasn’t been able to happen just yet.
On November 30, when the SDA was suppose to start the re-evaluation process, Raytheon submitted another challenge in relation to the corrective action in place by the SDA. It is unsure what Raytheon is challenging as the SDA could not make that public.
“We remain confident that our proposal based on the Arrow commodity satellite bus. It fits SDA’s evaluation criteria for commercial commoditized buses manufactured at scale.”
Debra Facktor, Head of Airbus U.S. Space Business, SpaceNews
The goal for these eight satellites is to be able to be manufactured at scale and launch by the end of 2022. That’s one reason SpaceX was able to secure this contract for their first non-launch contract for the DoD. With planning to manufacture and launch tens of thousands of Starlink satellites, SpaceX could easily meet the demand of offering a similar satellite with different hardware on board to offer missile tracking services.
This is just a test for a much larger capable constellation of tracking satellites all built from commercial manufactures. These could be rotated out ever couple of years to allow for use of newer, more cutting edge technology. That’s something we’ve seen the new U.S. Space Force wanting to push with their future programs.