SpaceX to build missile warning and tracking satellites

SpaceX has secured an agreement with the US Space Development Agency (SDA) to build missile warning and tracking satellites, according to a report from Space News.

The $149-million contract will see the company build four satellites which will form part of the first batch of a larger constellation of sensor satellites dubbed Tracking Layer Tranche o.

Four more satellites will be supplied by L3Harris, which will be paid $193-million for its contribution.

The deadline to deliver the missile tracking satellites is September 2022.

Each of the satellites will be equipped with an overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) sensor with a wide field of view that enables it to detect and track advanced missile ballistic and hypersonic missiles in low Earth orbit.

SDA Director Derek Tournear noted that SpaceX made an “extremely credible proposal” which will leverage its existing Starlink satellite assembly line.

“The selection is on technical merit but the schedule takes top priority,” Tournear said.

“We want to show that we can take commoditised commercial components and perform a DoD mission,” said Tournear.

SpaceX currently builds its satellites at a factory in Seattle, where it has produced thousands of low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites for use in its satellite Internet service. It delivered its 13th batch of satellites for this service into orbit on Tuesday.

US Space Force

This is the first time SpaceX has received an order to build satellites for the US military, although it has previously launched a US Space Force GPS satellite into orbit.

Following its formation as a military service in December, the US Space Force has taken over most of the country’s Air Force-run space programs.

The primary mission of the U.S. Space Force is to maintain, protect, and expand the U.S. fleet of advanced military satellites that form the backbone of U.S. global military operations.

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SpaceX to build missile warning and tracking satellites