The Tracking Layer is an experimental military satellite constellation developed by the SDA (Space Development Agency), which will provide global indications, warning, tracking, and targeting of advanced missile threats, including hypersonic missile systems.
SDA announced October 5 two contract awards for the first generation of the Tracking Layer. These awards represent the next major and highly visible steps toward developing the National Defense Space Architecture’s inaugural tranche (called Tranche 0). Once fully operational, the SDA Tracking Layer will consist of a proliferated heterogeneous constellation of Wide Field of View (WFOV) space vehicles (SVs) that provide persistent global coverage and custody capability combined with the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS) Medium Field of View (MFOV) SVs that provide precision global access capability. This set of contract awards will initiate the development of the first eight low-cost proliferated WFOV SVs. The capability demonstrated by the Tracking Layer Tranche 0 will provide missile warning and tracking information to national defense authorities, and tracking and cueing data for missile defense elements.
SDA’s Tracking Layer is exploring technical areas including, but not limited to:
Each satellite will have a “wide field of view” overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) sensor capable of detecting and tracking advanced missile threats from low Earth orbit. The satellites will also be equipped with optical crosslinks to pass data to the Transport Layer relay satellites.
In October 2020, SDA awarded contracts to SpaceX and L3Harris for each four Tranche 0 satellites. These are to be launched in 2022.
SpaceX’s missile-tracking satellite will be based on its Starlink bus with an OPIR sensor acquired from another supplier, Tournear said. He declined to name the payload provider and SpaceX has not disclosed subcontractors for the project.
Following Tranche 0, the SDA plans to continuously upgrade and add to its on orbit constellation in two year cycles, with Tranche 1 coming online in FY2024, Tranche 2 supplementing the system in FY2026.
|Type / Application:||Early warning|
|Contractors:||SpaceX (prime); Leidos (payload)|
|Configuration:||Starshield bus ?|
|Power:||Solar arrays, batteries|
|Orbit:||950 km × 950 km, 80-89.5°|
|Tracking Layer Tranche-0 WFOV 1||-||2023||Va SLC-4E||Falcon-9 v1.2 (Block 5)||with Transport Layer Tr.-0 A-Cl. 1, ..., 7, Transport Layer Tr.-0 B-Cl. 1, ..., 3, Tracking Layer Tr.-0 WFOV 1, 2, Tracking Layer Tr.-0 WFOV 5, 6|
|Tracking Layer Tranche-0 WFOV 2||-||2023||Va SLC-4E||Falcon-9 v1.2 (Block 5)||with Transport Layer Tr.-0 A-Cl. 1, ..., 7, Transport Layer Tr.-0 B-Cl. 1, ..., 3, Tracking Layer Tr.-0 WFOV 1, 2, Tracking Layer Tr.-0 WFOV 5, 6|
|Tracking Layer Tranche-0 WFOV 3||-||2023||Va SLC-4E||Falcon-9 v1.2 (Block 5)||with Transport Layer Tr.-0 A-Cl. 8, ..., 14, Transport Layer Tr.-0 B-Cl. 4, ..., 6, Tracking Layer Tr.-0 WFOV 3, 4, Tracking Layer Tr.-0 WFOV 7, 8|
|Tracking Layer Tranche-0 WFOV 4||-||2023||Va SLC-4E||Falcon-9 v1.2 (Block 5)||with Transport Layer Tr.-0 A-Cl. 8, ..., 14, Transport Layer Tr.-0 B-Cl. 4, ..., 6, Tracking Layer Tr.-0 WFOV 3, 4, Tracking Layer Tr.-0 WFOV 7, 8|