SpaceX landed a contract at the end of 2020 for the Space Development Agency. SpaceX estimates the first launches under the contract will happen in late 2022, and they were awarded $150.4 million. Under the contract, as many as 28 satellites will be put into orbit.
SpaceX will launch a mix of small and medium spacecraft of different sizes into orbit that the Space Development Agency is purchasing from various vendors. At least 20 of the satellites will be data-relay satellites known as the Transport Layer. The other eight are missile-warning satellites known as the Tracking Layer. All of the satellites will be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Bids were requested by the Space Development Agency on October 6, with responses due by November 9. According to the bid request, the satellites will be placed in groups of 14 in different circular near-polar orbits at an altitude of 950 kilometers. At the time, the agency said the provider selected would offer the best value based on price, schedule, and past performance.
This isn’t the first contract SpaceX won with the Space Development Agency. In October, SpaceX won ar contract to produce four tracking layer satellites. However, other competitors protested that contract award, which will hold up the contract indefinitely.
SpaceX was very busy in 2020 with multiple launches, including taking astronauts to the ISS for the first time. It’s also been busy launching all manner of satellites for governmental agencies, and itself with a large number of Starlink satellites for Internet service placed in orbit during 2020. By the middle of December, SpaceX had made 25 successful launches for the year. The company has also tested its Starship spacecraft, with a spectacular explosion on landing during its last test.