SDA sends notice to industry for next layer of missile tracking satellites

SDA is looking for input on Tranche 3 as it aims to “accelerate the proliferation of missile defense capability to provide low-latency fire control-quality data."
Rendering of a L3Harris missile warning satellite. (L3Harris image)

The Space Development Agency is seeking industry feedback on its third layer of missile warning and missile-tracking satellites that will be used to keep eyes on advanced threats such as hypersonic missiles.

The organization released a request for information posted to on Friday. In a related announcement, SDA said it’s looking for input on its upcoming Tranche 3, which will “accelerate the proliferation of missile defense capability to provide low-latency fire control-quality data.” The agency plans to purchase around 54 platforms — or potentially more — from one or more vendors.

The new RFI is the first one published for Tranche 3 of SDA’s Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA), a planned constellation of hundreds of satellites that carry communications, data transport, and missile warning and tracking capabilities. The agency’s systems stationed in low-Earth orbit (LEO) are intended to be part of a larger, multi-orbit proliferated space architecture of missile warning and tracking capabilities — one of the Space Force’s top budget priorities.

The Tranche 3 tracking satellites will be equipped with infrared sensors and be launched across six orbital planes, according to SDA. The agency is targeting a launch date of no later than April 2029 for the first plane, according to a release.


Responses to the RFI are due July 29, after which the agency plans to publish a final request for proposal.

Iterating off of the previous two tranches, Tranche 3 will provide fire control-quality data for warfighters. Fire control systems are able to create high-fidelity tracking information for incoming threats that includes the exact position and time accuracy needed for a missile defense system to send an interceptor to defeat targets.

The satellites in PWSA’s tracking layer are a separate effort from SDA’s experimental Fire-control On Orbit-support-to-the-war Fighter (FOO Fighter) program, which focuses on advancing next-generation fire-control capabilities for very specific threats.

In addition, the Tranche 3 tracking satellites will continue “to provide global, persistent indications, detection, warning, tracking, and identification of conventional and advanced missile threats, including hypersonic missile systems,” according to SDA. 

The first batch of 28 operational tracking satellites in Tranche 1 — built by Northrop Grumman and L3Harris — are scheduled to launch beginning in April 2025 and will offer “global mono coverage” for conventional missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles, an SDA fact sheet stated. 


Lockheed Martin, Sierra Space and L3Harris are contracted to develop satellites for Tranche 2, which will “complete near global stereo coverage” for missile warning and tracking missions while offering preliminary fire control capabilities, according to the fact sheet. The Tranche 2 satellites are scheduled to launch in 2027.

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