SDA Looking for Some New Stomping Grounds

Space Development Agency to release new solicitation for constellation ground segment

Space Development Agency – Increasing Warfighters' Lethality,  Maneuverability, and Survivability
Credit: Space Development Agency (

In a preliminary release of the Request for Proposal (RFP), the Space Development Agency (SDA) is aiming to gather comments to better seek bids for their official release in early 2022. The SDA aims to award for a ground system capable of operating a network of 144 satellites known as Transport Layer Tranche 1. Currently, only one vendor will be selected to build the ground system.

In order to avoid conflicts of interest in contractor companies, the SDA first plans to award the build of the initial 126 Transport Layer Tranche 1 satellites and then release the RFP to build the ground system. “The conflict of interest issue would be applicable to satellite manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, L3Harris and Raytheon that are also ground systems integrators so they conceivably could bid for both the space and ground segments,” says author Sandra Erwin.

Ground systems provide a conceivable target when assessing cyber-risk for any space systems. Consider the existing ground stations today; many systems are connected to the internet (just like every other unsecured device in the world) and they use similar components to the electric grid (providing a practice field full of equipment for hackers everywhere). Building a new ground system from the ground up (no pun intended) will have to take these risks into account early on in the requirements development and design.

Furthermore, there is a non-zero chance of two different companies building the space and ground segments posing an additional cyber-risk. An ill-willed ground company could ostensibly collect design information about their counterpart space segment company design practices based on the data returned from a satellite constellation. Therefore, an inter-company agreement or policy must be established to not gather non-mission essential data from the other.