A contract for the Space Development Agency was received by SpaceX at the end of 2020. SpaceX projects that the first launches under the contract will take place in late 2022, and $150.4 million has been awarded. As many as 28 satellites will be placed into space under the contract.
SpaceX will launch into orbit a combination of small and medium spacecraft of different sizes that the Space Development Agency is purchasing from various manufacturers. At least 20 of the satellites will be data-relay satellites known as the Transport Layer. The remaining eight are missile-warning satellites recognized as the Tracking Layer. Many of the satellites will be launched from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The Space Development Agency requested bids on October 6, with replies due by November 9. According to the bid request, the satellites will be placed in groups of 14 in various circular near-polar orbits at an altitude of 950 kilometres. The agency said at the time that the preferred vendor would provide the best value based on price, timetable, and past performance.
This is not the first deal SpaceX has won with the Space Development Agency. In October, SpaceX won a contract to manufacture four tracking layer satellites. Some rivals, however, opposed the granting of the contract, which would forever hold up the contract.
In 2020, SpaceX was very busy with several launches, including sending astronauts for the first time to the ISS. It has also been busy launching all sorts of government agency satellites, and with a significant number of Internet service, Starlink satellites put in space during 2020. SpaceX had made 25 successful launches for the year by the middle of December. The organisation also tested the Starship spacecraft, with the final test featuring a spectacular explosion on landing.