Companies are teaming up to compete for an SDA contract to operate the Transport Layer Tranche 1 constellation
WASHINGTON – Communications satellite operator Iridum and General Dynamics Mission Systems have submitted a joint bid to operate and manage the Space Development Agency’s low-Earth orbit constellation.
An Iridium spokesperson confirmed that the two companies came together on a proposal in response to an SDA request earlier this year. The agency in January it issued a request for proposals for the “ground operations and integration segment” for a $1.8 billion constellation known as Transport Layer Tranche 1.
Iridium CEO Matt Desch, during an earnings call on April 19, told analysts that the company was seeking the SDA contract but did not discuss the equipment deal.
SDA has commissioned 126 satellites from Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and York Space Systems. Each company is responsible for providing 42 satellites and operating them, but SDA will select an independent contractor to manage the entire company, including ground stations, data links and user equipment.
“Iridium and General Dynamics Mission Systems have partnered and submitted an innovative proposal in response to SDA’s RFP for system integration development of its proliferated LEO constellation, ground systems, facilities, ground stations, and management of the daily operations of its net”. Iridium said in a statement to SpaceNews.
The company operates a constellation of 75 communications satellites in low Earth orbit and provides satellite communications services to US government and commercial customers. General Dynamics Mission Systems develops and integrates satcom antennas and terrestrial systems.
SDA Technical Director Frank Turner described the integration of the Tranche 1 ground systems as a complex challenge. “What we need is a team of people who can take a look at the missions, what we need to operate from a ground-based perspective, and how to build the constellation, mission and network management to make it all work together.” said the last. month at an industry conference.
Transport Layer, a mesh network intended to move data in space over optical links, will have two operations centers at government facilities at Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota; and Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. It will have multiple terrestrial entry points, external locations, and backhaul terrestrial communications.
“The ability of this contractor to work with and manage the input and actions of many other actors will be critical to the successful implementation and operation of Tranche 1,” said SDA. The agency is reviewing the offers and expects to select a contractor in the coming months.