Rendering of T2TL Beta satellites. Credits: Joint Forces

Rocket Lab Will Develop 18 Satellites for SDA

Rocket Lab secured a substantial $515 million contract with the Space Development Agency (SDA) for the development and construction of 18 satellites

Rocket Lab, a leading launch vehicle manufacturer and launch services provider, recently signed a huge contract worth up to $515 million with the Space Development Agency (SDA). This agreement includes the important commission of 18 satellites to be launched in 2027.

This collaboration has historic significance for both Rocket Lab and the US Space Force’s unit, highlighting the increased relevance of the commercial space industry also in the defense sector.

Rocket Lab’s 33rd Electron mission. Credits: Rocket Lab
33rd Electron mission. Credits: Rocket Lab

The contract stipulated with the Space Development Agency (SDA) covers the entire cycle, from design to production, delivery, and operation, of a constellation of prototype satellites as part of the so-called Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA). This event represents one of the most significant commissions in the history of Rocket Lab Company.

The activities specified in the agreement were scheduled to commence promptly, aiming for delivery and launch in 2027. Afterward, Rocket Lab will manage the satellites until 2030, with the possibility of extending the operation period through 2033.


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SDA and PWSA

The SDA is currently planning an intricate network of military satellites to be positioned in low-Earth orbit, referred to as the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture. This constellation, comprising hundreds of satellites, is designed for data transport and communications, but mainly for targeting launchers, ships, and hypersonic missile threats, providing crucial support for U.S. ground forces and safety. 

The PWSA architecture. Credits: Microwave Journal
The PWSA architecture. Credits: Microwave Journal

Rocket Lab is now officially the third supplier of SDA’s Transport Layer Tranche 2 Beta satellites, as Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman were selected last year to produce 72 Beta satellites.

Rendering of T2TL Beta satellites. Credits: Joint Forces
Rendering of T2TL Beta satellites. Credits: Joint Forces

This contract marks the beginning of Rocket Lab’s new era as a leading satellite prime. Their selection as a new prime and bus provider demonstrates SDA’s dedication to our mission, which includes developing a growing, innovative marketplace necessary to sustain SDA’s proliferated architecture on two-year spirals.” 

Derek Tournear, SDA director

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Production phase

The satellite assembly will occur at Rocket Lab’s spacecraft development complex located at the company’s Long Beach headquarters. This establishment has been designed specifically to facilitate the operations with the manufacture and assembly of a constellation class owing to spaces dedicated to the cleanroom and streamlined production & testing grounds. All 18 satellites commissioned by SDA, will also incorporate subsystems and components crafted by Rocket Lab, such as solar panels, radio equipment, flight software, and avionics.

The Rocket Lab Production Complex at Long Beach, California. Credits: Rocket Lab
Production Complex at Long Beach, California. Credits: Rocket Lab
Beatrice Romeo

Beatrice Romeo

Master student in Aerospace Engineering.
Ocean activist and kitesurfing athlete.

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