The Space Development Agency (SDA) has selected two defence contractors to develop a prototype for the Tranche 2 Transport Layer (T2TL) – Beta military satellite constellation.

Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have accepted their respective prototype agreements, worth $816m and $733m respectively, collectively valued $1.5bn. The constellation will comprise 72 new satellites that will form the foundation of T2TL Beta, otherwise known as the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA).

Delivering T2TL – the next phase of space architecture resilience

Both companies will build and operate 36 satellites each – in three orbital planes of 12 satellites each, with the first plane ready for launch by September 2026.

T2TL Beta is part of a larger plan to strengthen the resilience of space-based architectures that provide militaries with data relay and tactical communications.

The T2TL variant satellites will work in tandem with the SDA’s Tranche 1 and Tranche 2 networks. The advancement will provide targeted technology enhancements, mission-focused payload configurations, and increased integration.

“We are now solidly in the procurement phase for Tranche 2 of the PWSA to support a 2026 delivery,” SDA Director Derek Tournear stated.

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“Tranche 2 brings global persistence for all our capabilities in Tranche 1 and adds advanced tactical data links and future proliferated missions. 

“The Beta [prototype] variant of the T2TL vehicles are similar to T1TL vehicles while also integrating advanced tactical communication technology demonstrated by the Tranche 1 Development and Experimentation System.”

A Joint All Domain Command and Control network relies on a “space backbone”

The PWSA Transport Layer will provide multi-band global communications and encrypted connectivity across defence.

According to the SDA, “The Transport Layer will be the space backbone for the Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) infrastructure with low-latency data transport, sensor-to-shooter connectivity, and tactical satellite communication direct to platform.”

Space based assets will serve as the JADC2 hub – where all information collected from space comes through to end users.

Considering this project is uppermost in the minds directing the US Armed Forces, let alone the minds of all modern militaries, it would be fair to say that space architectures are the critical foothold to future military warfare.