The US Department of Defense Space Development Agency (SDA) has announced $1.8 billion in contracts with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and York Space Systems. They will create a military communications network, which they called Tranche 1 Transport Layer (T1TL).
The new network should provide a system for stable laser transmission of large amounts of data with minimal time delay. In total, it is planned to launch into low Earth orbit, which the Americans call the Transport Layer (“Transport Layer”), a constellation of 126 satellites. Each of the companies will build 42 devices. For these purposes, Lockheed Martin received more than $700 million, Northrop Grumman - $692 million, and York Space Systems - $382 million. The amount of costs depends on the complexity of the devices.
This year, SDA plans to send the first 28 satellites into orbit, weighing no more than 150 kilograms. Of these, 20 communication devices and eight space sensors with a wide field of view for the detection of ballistic and hypersonic missiles. It is expected to complete the formation of a high-speed data transmission network at the end of 2024. By this time, other satellites will be launched into orbit, which are now in the work of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
The Missile Defense Agency is building space sensors with an average view. They will be connected to the sensors of the Space Development Agency. They will receive from them information about the detection of hypersonic and ballistic targets (HBTSS) and accompany them, interacting with interception systems.
In addition to tracking equipment, strike assets will also be included in the same network. The MDA designers called this weapon the Multiple Kill Vehicle system (MKV) - the Universal System for the Destruction of Space Platforms.
It is planned to launch these devices next year. They will also take positions in low Earth orbit. In this case, we are talking about unmanned aerial vehicles, on board of which there will be up to 30 interceptor drones, each weighing up to 50 kilograms. This strike system will be launched into space by Atlas-5, Falcon-9 and Delta IV rockets. Each of the carriers will be able to lift several MKVs. Once in orbit, the blocks will go into standby mode, and after receiving the command, they will begin to obey artificial intelligence. It will independently analyze threats and make decisions about their destruction.
The second project, owned by DARPA, was named by analogy with the Blackjack card game, hinting that it would be difficult for the enemy to unravel the course of the “game”. These small satellites are created according to the same technological scheme: radioisotope energy sources, an engine for maneuvering in orbit and a payload. They will be able to change position in orbit, making it almost impossible to destroy them. They will also be able to approach any spacecraft in a low reference orbit, which is about 80% of all satellites, block their work or simply destroy them.
They will be launched in groups of 20. Each device performs a specific function. One maintains communications, the other conducts optical-electronic reconnaissance, the third - radio engineering, the fourth is equipped with some kind of warhead, and so on. All together they work within the concept of "smart dust" - combined into a single sensor, intelligent and impact network.
All satellites built by the Space Development Agency, the Missile Defense Agency and the Department of Advanced Research Projects of the Ministry of Defense will interact with each other, as well as with ground-based detection and tracking systems and all types of weapons, air, land and sea based. Together they will form a multi-level system of constant tracking, laser data transmission, their processing and combat decision-making.