Ball Aerospace, Microsoft and Loft Federal team up for SDA's NExT program

By Apurva Minchekar / April 14, 2023

Ball Aerospace announced its collaboration with Loft Federal and Microsoft on Tuesday to work on the Space Development Agency's experimental testbed program, called NExT, that will carry 10 satellites with experimental payloads into orbit.

"Ball Aerospace is leveraging our strong relationships with Loft Federal and Microsoft, which will enable us to streamline our assembly and integration process and move quickly to deliver capabilities to SDA," Ball Aerospace President Dave Kaufman said.

Last October, SDA awarded Ball Aerospace a $176 million contract to establish the National Defense Space Architecture experimental testbed.

NExT will demonstrate warfighter utility of emerging mission partner payloads prior to potential incorporation in future tranches, according to the SDA.

“NExT is an exciting program that has a lot of ties in with our mission partners and will help to advance future tranches of the National Defense Space Architecture,” SDA Director Derek Tournear said.

The aerospace company noted that by integrating proven components and cutting-edge software, Loft Federal can quickly deliver assets to Low Earth Orbit to meet SDA NExT mission requirements. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s solution for NExT involves the combination of Azure Orbital Ground Station and Azure Government air-gapped clouds, which will allow the SDA to perform its mission work in a secure cloud environment.

“Through NExT, together the SDA and U.S. Space Force will securely operate a government owned satellite constellation with Azure Orbital Ground Station's global network for the first time,” according to Ball Aerospace.

The prototype agreement includes development, manufacture, deployment, launch, and operations of a set of 10 space vehicles and mission-enabling ground systems, set to fly beginning in 2024, according to the SDA.