SpaceX has ended 2020 on a winning note as the SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Workhorse rocket has won a new US military launch deal worth $150 million. The Department of Defense (DOD) Space Development Agency (SDA) has said that as per the deal, SpaceX will place into orbit as many as 28 Transport and Tracking layer (TTL) satellites on its two Falcon 6 rockets from September 2022 to March 2023. The officials have said that if everything goes to plan, these two launches will put in place a full ‘Tranche 0’ satellite constellation. This will enable a US Military Agency to move fast and field solutions, a rare ability, which are both lucrative and efficient. Experts have said that ‘Tranche 0’ will offer a worldwide linked satellite constellation comprised of contact satellites and missile detection satellites. These will be able to send a warning, tracking, and targeting data from anywhere in the world.
The decision from the SDA has come at the same time when major defense contract firm Raytheon has been protesting against the deal, SpaceX has been awarded. These protests have led to a halt in the work on eight of the twenty-eight satellites, SpaceX is going to launch, four of which, SpaceX itself has won around $149 million to design and build. The SDA has signed the deals of satellites known as Tracking Layer of Tranche 0 worth $198 million with SpaceX and L3Harris in October 2020 to build four missile warning satellites each. The deal has been SpaceX’s first satellite production contract ever quietly launching the firm into the multibillion-dollar market for US Civil-Military Spacecraft. However, due to mounting force from Raytheon, the SDA has planned to reassess its verdict to give Tracking Layer deals to SpaceX and L3Harris. However, the agency has said that it will not allow any new bids now. The agency is now going to find out errors in its earlier decision. Experts from the agency have said that odds are quite low that protest will change the outcome.
The protest has been demanding that SpaceX and L3Harris need to legally stop their ongoing work on their own satellite growth contracts until the SDA is done with its review. A month before, the agency has granted the deals to Lockheed Martin worth $187.5 million and York Space Systems worth $94 million to send ten ‘Transport layer’ satellites each. Scientists have said that with the help of laser interlinks, Tranche 0 Transport Layer can safely send Tracking Layer missile warning alerts from anywhere in the world. It has some limited general contact ability as well.