Northrop Grumman selects Leidos to supply infrared sensor payloads for the US Space Development Agency’s missile-tracking satellite constellation

Northrop Grumman selected Leidos to supply infrared sensor payloads for the U.S. Space Development Agency’s missile-tracking satellite constellation in low Earth orbit.

“It’s a key win for our space business,” Leidos chairman and CEO Roger Krone said during a third-quarter earnings call.

Northrop Grumman won a $617 million contract in July to produce 14 infrared-sensing satellites that will be part of a network of 28 missile-detecting satellites — known as Tracking Layer Tranche 1 — to be deployed by the U.S. Space Force’s Space Development Agency. A contract for the other 14 was awarded to L3Harris.

Leidos has worked as a subcontractor to SpaceX under a $149 million contract SpaceX won in 2020 to build four satellites for the Space Development Agency’s Tracking Layer Tranche 0.

SpaceX’s Tranche 0 satellites are projected to launch in December. The company reportedly does not plan to bid on future tranches of the Tracking Layer so the new agreement with Northrop Grumman gives Leidos a long-term foothold in the program.

Leidos was one of four companies that competed in 2020 for a Missile Defense Agency contract to design a hypersonic and ballistic missile-defense satellite, but lost out to L3Harris and Northrop Grumman.

Under the new contract with Northrop Grumman, “we’ll develop and build the sensor payload for a proliferated constellation of low Earth orbit satellites for the Tranche 1 Tracking Layer,” Krone said. “On a predecessor contract, our Tranche 0 payload is on schedule to launch by the end of the year.”

Krone said the Tranche 1 design will “increase coverage area while reducing payload size, weight and power.”

Leidos, formed in 2013 as a spinoff of the defense contractor SAIC, gained significant expertise in sensor satellites and payloads when it acquired Dynetics in 2019.