Space Development Agency would get $4.3B in FY ’25 budget request 

The request is less than what SDA asked for in fiscal 2024, reflecting the agency's pivot to launching its first operational tranche of satellites and procurement of fewer launches.
(Getty Images)

The Space Development Agency is asking for a topline of about $4.3 billion for fiscal 2025, including money for the upcoming launch of its first operational tranche of satellites and work to develop future capabilities.

The request is 8.5 percent less than the $4.7 billion that the agency asked for in fiscal 2024, marking a shift from the steady increase in funding SDA has received each year since it was founded in 2019. At press time, Congress has not passed a full-year 2024 appropriations bill and the Defense Department is operating under a continuing resolution.

The Space Development Agency is in charge of fielding a constellation of satellites in low-Earth orbit (LEO) known as the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA). The agency launched the first demonstration satellites in 2023 and wants to begin fielding operational space vehicles in two-year increments — referred to as tranches — beginning in late 2024. 

Recently published budget justification books show that SDA is moving away from development needed for Tranche 1 and is now focusing on production and delivery of the payloads. The agency also wants to ramp up work on Tranche 2, supporting ground infrastructure and battle management software, all while initiating work on Tranche 3.


According to a funding chart provided by SDA, most of the budget request is for research and development — around $3.9 billion, in total. The organization is also looking to buy four space launches for $357 million in fiscal 2025, which is less than the $529 million it asked for in FY ’24 to cover five launches. Rounding out the request is $56 million for operation and maintenance, per the budget documents.

Transport layer

SDA is asking for $1.4 billion in FY ’25 for its transport layer, which will carry data relay and communications capabilities and serve as the foundation for the Pentagon’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) warfighting concept. The agency plans to kick off acquisition for the Tranche 3 transport layer in fiscal 2025, with plans to award the first contracts by the end of the fiscal year, according to budget justification documents. 

The agency is asking for less this year than it did in fiscal 2024, mainly due to the Tranche 1 tracking layer systems moving from development and into production ahead of their launch in late 2024, budget documents state.

The Tranche 2 transport layer will also continue development through FY ’25 to prepare for launch beginning in 2027. The layer will be made up of three different satellite variants — dubbed Alpha, Beta and Gamma — that each have slightly different capabilities. 


SDA has already tapped Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman for the Beta variant, while York Space Systems and Northrop Grumman have been contracted for the Alphas. According to the budget request, the agency will award one more contract for Beta satellites and those for the Gamma variants, in fiscal 2024.

According to the justification documents, an additional $153.7 million will go towards building out the needed ground infrastructure and network capabilities for the PWSA’s growth, as well as developing and expanding the Battle Management Command, Control, and Communications (BMC3) Application Factory.

The budget request also includes a separate line that covers risk reduction, analyses, modeling and simulation, and technology maturation efforts for future PWSA tranches. That request — $425.2 million in FY ’25, which is less than the $472.6 million asked for last year — is dedicated to development of an “increasingly broad set of technologies (including alternative navigation solutions, advanced missile tracking, multi-INT fusion algorithms, integrated battle management algorithms, and next generation tactical data links),” the justification book said.

Not only does the money cover some work related to all planned tranches of transport satellites, it also funds some of the ground operations, SDA’s two experimental communications satellite programs, its National Defense Space Architecture Experimental Testbed (NExT) initiative and the PWSA Future Programs effort — which is integral to the agency’s plans to offer fire control capabilities.

However, budget documents state that funding was lowered in FY ’25 “due to realignment for higher U.S. Space Force priorities.” When asked to comment on the priority realignment, the Space Development Agency referred DefenseScoop to the Department of the Air Force, which did not immediately respond to inquiries.


During a meeting with reporters Friday prior to the official budget rollout, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said that both the Air and Space Forces modernization efforts were constrained by the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which caps defense spending in fiscal 2024 and fiscal 2025. For the Space Force’s budget — a majority of which is RDT&E funding — that meant having to make some “hard choices” about its priorities, he said.

“The net effects of the constraints that we have are that we’re not moving forward as fast as I’d like to in space, but we’re still moving forward,” Kendall said.

Tracking layer

The agency is asking for a little over $1.7 billion in R&D money in FY ’25 to fund the PWSA’s tracking layer of satellites that will be able to detect and track missile threats, as well as work on future fire-control capabilities. 

Creating a multi-orbit, proliferated space architecture of missile warning and tracking satellites is a top priority for the Space Force in its 2025 budget, with the lion’s share of the service’s request for research-and-development funds being allocated to programs that cover all orbital regimes.


The fiscal 2025 request is more than the $1.2 billion the agency asked for in FY ’24 for its missile warning and tracking efforts, which “reflects significant increase in Tranche 2 activities for space vehicle development, delivery, and test,” budget justification documents stated.

The agency is currently planning to launch 54 satellites for its Tranche 2 tracking layer, 48 of which will be for global warning and tracking missions and six that will offer preliminary fire control and missile defense capabilities. SDA awarded L3Harris, Lockheed Martin and Sierra Space contracts in January to build and deliver the payloads.

SDA plans to complete preliminary design review and critical design reviews of the space vehicles, initiate production and conduct other work on Tranche 2, which is scheduled to launch by April 2027. 

As for the Tranche 1 tracking layer, SDA will wrap up development and launch the birds into space beginning in April 2025. Money in fiscal 2025 will also be used to define the requirements and begin soliciting the Tranche 3 tracking layer, according to budget documents.

The request also outlines plans for its next-generation missile tracking and fire control satellites, the Fire-control On Orbit-support-to-the-war Fighter (FOO Fighter) program. SDA wants to award a contract in fiscal 2024 and begin building the space vehicles for initial assembly and test during fiscal 2025. However, SDA Director Derek Tournear recently stated the agency will not be able to award a contract for the program until Congress approves funding for FY ’24, according to a report from Breaking Defense.

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