DoD agencies to invest more than $1 billion in low-Earth orbit space technologies

Source: Space News

by Sandra Erwin — May 30, 2021

Technologies developed by SDA, MDA and DARPA are expected to transition into larger Space Force programs

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration’s defense budget proposal for fiscal year 2022 seeks more than $1.2 billion  for military space systems in low-Earth orbit. 

According to budget documents released May 28, nearly $900 million of that investment is for the Space Development Agency’s communications network in low-Earth orbit (LEO) known as the Transport Layer. The Missile Defense Agency is seeking about $300 million for space sensors, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is requesting $42 million to deploy experimental satellites in LEO under the Blackjack program. 

These agencies report to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and are not part of the U.S. Space Force, which has its own budget for research, development and procurement of new systems. But many of the LEO technologies developed by SDA, MDA and DARPA are expected to transition into larger Space Force programs. 

Space Development Agency 

The Pentagon is seeking $936.7 million in 2022 for the SDA, about a $600 million increase from 2021. That includes $808.8 million for research, development, testing and evaluation (RDT&E), $53.8 million for operations and maintenance, and $74 million for procurement. 

This is the first time that SDA gets a separate funding line for procurement. 

The agency’s large spending boost was expected for 2022 as SDA prepares to launch the first batch of its Transport Layer satellites and moves ahead with the procurement of up to 150 satellites that would launch in 2024. 

The 2022 request funds the demonstration of SDA’s first 28 satellites — 20 Transport Layer Tranche 0 satellites and eight wide-field-of-view space sensors to detect and track ballistic and hypersonic missiles known as Tracking Layer Tranche 0.

The funds also would allow SDA to start acquiring Transport Layer Tranche 1 satellites. Tracking Layer Tranche 1 satellites are not funded in the 2022 request.


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