Northrop Grumman picks Airbus for Tranche 1 satellite deliveries

By Michael Marrow / July 5, 2022 at 9:30 AM

Airbus U.S. Space & Defense will deliver 42 satellite platforms to Northrop Grumman for the Space Development Agency's Tranche 1 Transport Layer project, the two companies announced today.

SDA awarded a $692 million contract to Northrop Grumman in February as one of three contractors to build out architecture for the agency’s planned mesh constellation of variously sized, low-earth orbit satellites.

Lockheed Martin and York Space systems were also separately tapped by SDA to manufacture 42 satellites each for a total constellation of 126 that would support the National Defense Space Architecture and serve as the backbone for the Joint All Domain Command and Control initiative.

Northrop Grumman previously announced it successfully tested a laser communication system for its Tranche 1 satellites, a ground-based demonstration that replicated how terminals will communicate in space. The company selected Mynaric and Innoflight as suppliers for the laser communication and encryption capabilities.

“We are pleased to have Airbus U.S. as one of our key commercial suppliers for this significant national security mission,” Blake Bullock, Northrop Grumman vice president for communication systems and strategic space systems wrote in a statement. “Airbus U.S. brings best-in-class satellite design for manufacturing and scalability, providing a perfect complement to our end-to-end satellite system integration and heritage communication mission expertise.”

The Airbus satellites will be assembled at the company’s Merritt Island, FL joint production line with OneWeb, according to Airbus’ release.

The Tranche 1 project will follow the agency’s planned Tranche 0 launches, which will establish an initial capacity of 20 space vehicles. The first Tranche 0 launch is scheduled for this fall.

The task of integrating the complex satellite architecture into a unified environment will be left to General Dynamics, which secured a $324.5 million operations and integration contract from SDA in May.