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Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin T2TL Beta Satellites

Northrop Grumman will supply 36 satellites for SDA's Tranche 2 Transport Layer-Beta Data Transport Layer [©Northrop Grumman]

Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin selected to build T2TL Beta (Tranche 2 Transport Layer-Beta) data transport satellites for US SDA.

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Press Release, Washington, 21 August 2023: Northrop Grumman Corporation has been selected by the Space Development Agency (SDA) to design and build 36 data transport satellites, the first space vehicles in the latest generation of its low-Earth orbit Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA). The team will now update the company’s Tranche 1 design to add new broadcast and tactical communications capabilities to PWSA.

The satellites will integrate with, and expand the PWSA mesh network, utilising high-data-capacity optical crosslinks to deliver accessible, near-real time communications to U.S. warfighters and defensive platforms operating around the globe. The design for this latest iteration, known as Tranche 2 Transport Layer Beta (T2TL Beta), builds on the 42 Tranche 1 Transport Layer (T1TL) and 14 Tranche 1 Tracking Layer (T1TRK) satellites that SDA previously announced it had awarded Northrop Grumman. The T2TL Beta space vehicles add new broadcast and tactical waveforms improving the capabilities of the overall PWSA.

“Creating a low-Earth orbit communications architecture that meets the needs of the warfighter is complex,” said Blake Bullock, vice president, communication systems, Northrop Grumman. “With Northrop Grumman’s extensive military satellite communication experience and deep mission understanding, we are helping SDA make its vision a reality.”

Northrop Grumman announced in April it had completed critical design review on its T1TL design in just over a year and in May completed optical interoperability testing. The company is on track to launch its first plane of 21 space vehicles in Q4 2024.

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Press Release, Littleton CO, 21 August 2023: The Space Development Agency (SDA) awarded Lockheed Martin a firm-fixed price agreement valued at approximately $816 million to build 36 Tranche 2 Transport Layer (T2TL) Beta satellites. T2TL is part of an overarching plan to strengthen deterrence with more resilient space architectures for beyond line-of-sight (BLOS) targeting, data transport, and advanced missile detection and tracking.

The T2TL Beta variant satellites will work in tandem with SDA’s Tranche 1 and Tranche 2 networks. They will advance the initial warfighting capability with targeted technology enhancements, mission-focused payload configurations, and increased integration.

“Tranche 2 will significantly enhance our warfighters’ capabilities and establish new levels of resiliency, connectivity, and orbital diversity that are necessary for countering future threats,” said Joe Rickers, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for Protected Communications. “SDA’s unique acquisition approach expedites the proliferation of this critical technology, and Lockheed Martin’s strategic partnerships with a network of suppliers and small businesses will ensure we’re aligned with SDA’s strategy for accelerated delivery.”

T2TL Beta will consist of 72 satellites and will be deployed into orbit over a series of launches beginning in 2026 and will undergo a continuous checkout and commissioning process for acceptance into operations. With this award, Lockheed Martin will deliver at least 88 data communications satellites for SDA’s low-Earth orbit military constellation. The company’s 10 Tranche 0 Transport Layer (T0TL) satellites will launch in 2023, while its 42 Tranche 1 satellites are in production and on track for a 2024 launch.

Lockheed Martin will deliver advanced technology on its T2TL Beta satellites to enable the proliferated global network and maintain the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture’s technological and military advantages in space through a hybrid enterprise.

To deliver and innovate at speed and scale, Lockheed Martin recently opened a 20,000 square-foot small satellite processing centre that is scaled to efficiently assemble, integrate and test smallsats. The facility, which will house Lockheed Martin’s T1TL and T2TL Beta satellites, features six parallel assembly lines and dedicated test chambers to deliver 180 satellites or more per year to help enable customers’ strategy.

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