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SDA Seeking Industry Feedback on Satellite Integration; Derek Tournear Quoted

3 mins read
Derek Tournear
Derek Tournear SDA Director

The Space Development Agency (SDA) has chosen a multiple tranche development approach for its global satellite constellation systems for the Department of the Defense (DOD). No SDA satellites are flying yet, but the SDA has already requested industry feedback on how the Agency should upgrade its communications standards for its second generation of satellites. C4isrnet reported the story on Wednesday. 

“The whole idea is to be able to move data as rapidly as possible to get that tactical information directly to the warfighter,” commented Derek Tournear, SDA Director and 2021 Wash100 Award recipient.“The transport layer consists of hundreds of satellites that form a resilient optically interconnected mesh network that will pass data directly to existing tactical data links.

 “So what that means to the warfighter is the following: I can now move data from a targeting cell that could be located CONUS or ideally that targeting cell will actually form a target onboard on the satellites and I can send that data down directly to an existing tactical data link on a weapons platform or on a weapon itself,” Tounear added. 

SDA’s constellation will eventually be composed of hundreds of primarily low-Earth-orbit satellites. The constellation’s foundation will be its transport layer, a mesh network on-orbit connected through optical inter-satellite links. 

The transport layer will allow the DOD to move data through space rapidly and will be the glue that will connect the services’ various Combined Joint All Domain Command and Control networks.

SDA will launch its first set of 28 satellites (Tranceh zero) in 2022, and Tranche one will have around 150 in 2024. SDA is requesting industry feedback on how to build these first couple tranches of satellites in a manner that is upgradable and integrable to future more advanced satellites in Tranche two, three and beyond. 

The advanced satellites of the latter Tranches, according to Tournear, needs to be able to communicate with each other and be but also “satellite to air, satellite to ground and satellite to air and maritime assets, we had to start to look and say, ‘Okay now we really need to look at the optical comm standard and say, what is industry doing?”

SDA is expected to order its tranche one transport layer satellites this summer. Responses to the optical communications information request are due April 30.

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