The company won a contract for the Tranche 1 Demonstration and Experimentation System (T1DES) program
WASHINGTON — The Space Agency has awarded York Space Systems a contract worth up to $200 million to build and operate 12 satellites with experimental military communications payloads.
The contract was awarded on 30 September and announced on 6 October.
SDA, an agency of the US space force, is building the first Defense Department Internet constellation in space in low Earth orbit.
The 12 satellites to be produced by York will be part of the Class 1 Demonstration and Experimentation System, known as T1DES. These 12 satellites will carry ultrahigh frequency (UHF) and S-band military communications payloads that currently provide mobile wireless services from geostationary satellites. SDA wants to see if these payloads can perform the same service from low Earth orbit.
SDA Director Derek Tournear said during a call with reporters on Oct. 6 that getting these communications payloads into much lower orbits poses significant technical challenges, which is why the agency is running this experiment with 12 satellites.
“We have to show that the technology that works now in geosynchronous orbit can be applied in LEO where there are Doppler shift differences and things like that,” he said.
York will be responsible for procuring and integrating the communications payloads and should provide significant onboard processing capability, “where the real technical challenge lies,” Tournear said. The T1DES experiment is possible, he said, “because of what commercial industry has pushed into the ability to do supercomputers in low Earth orbit.”
SDA in February ordered 126 satellites for its Tranche 1 Transport Layer network scheduled for launch in 2024. These satellites will have optical laser terminals, regular Link 16 links and Ka-band radio payloads to transport data into space and into space. terrain.
York Space Systems is producing 42 of the Tranche 1 Transport Layer satellites under the $382 million contract. The rest will be supplied by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. York Space and Lockheed Martin also won contracts in August 2020 to each supply 10 Transport Layer Tranche 0 satellites.
Tournear said T1DES was a “full and open tender and we decided that York provided the best value to the government to deliver on schedule, at an affordable cost and meet our demonstration requirements”.
He said York’s bid for the 12 satellites was “affordable” but could not discuss the pricing offered by five other bidders competing for the contract.
In the Transport Layer Tranche 1 offering, York’s prices were dramatically lower than those of its competitors, which is attributed to York’s ability to building satellites in-house whereas Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman purchase satellite shuttles from partner companies and integrate them.
Although companies such as York Space, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and L3Harris have been repeat winners of SDA contracts, Tournier insisted that the agency does not plan to continue buying satellites from the same suppliers indefinitely and intends to create a competitive environment where companies every two years have opportunities to win contracts.
“We remain committed to providing regular opportunities through our spiral growth model to foster an industry partner market,” said Tournear.
York’s SDA contract winning streak helped the company attract investors. The private equity company AE Industrial Partners he announced on Tuesday plans to acquire a majority stake in York Space Systems, injecting more than $1 billion in capital into the company.
The 12 T1DES satellites are scheduled to be launched starting in fiscal year 2025 in four separate missions. Each launch will deploy 10 satellites: three T1DES satellites and seven Tranche 1 Layer Tracking satellites. The tracking layer of 28 satellites is planned space sensor network designed to detect and track ballistic and hypersonic missiles.