L3Harris Secures Space Force Contract for Satellite Sensor Design

L3Harris Technologies has been granted a $29 million contract by the US Space Force to devise a sensor for the proposed Resilient Missile Warning and Tracking satellite constellation. Millennium Space Systems and Raytheon Technologies are already under contract to develop sensor prototypes for these satellites, destined for medium Earth orbit, between 1,200 and 22,000 miles above Earth.

According to the program’s senior material leader, engaging L3Harris to design a third sensor for the program’s first phase, or “Epoch,” expands the Space Force’s industrial team. This broadening provides the service with additional options as the satellite constellation expands.

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US Space Force Awards L3Harris Technologies Contract for Sensor Design in Missile Warning Satellite Constellation
US Space Force Awards L3Harris Technologies Contract for Sensor Design in Missile Warning Satellite Constellation.

Col. Heather Bogstie, in her June 5 statement, asserted that introducing a third vendor minimizes risk and non-recurring engineering for not just Epoch 1 but also future Epochs. She explained that having an additional payload option expands the trade space and lets the Space Force leverage industry offerings as it delivers high-quality capabilities to warfighters.

This program forms part of the Space Force’s strategy to augment its missile-warning and -tracking abilities against escalating threats from China and Russia by dispatching satellites to medium and low Earth orbits.

Presently, missile warning satellites are primarily situated in geosynchronous orbit, approximately 22,000 miles away. Satellites placed in medium Earth orbit can monitor vast areas without needing the same sensor complexity when positioned further away from Earth.

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The first satellites are scheduled for launch in 2026, with the Space Force planning to have four medium-Earth orbit satellites in operation by 2028, aiming to roll out technological upgrades every three years.

The service requested $538 million for medium-Earth orbit tracking satellites for fiscal 2024 to support Epoch 1. Based on budget documents, it anticipates requiring $3.5 billion from FY24 to FY28 for this endeavor.

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According to budget documents, the service intends to purchase six satellites from Millennium, a Boeing subsidiary, and three from Raytheon for Epoch 1. The service may procure up to three L3Harris satellites for Epoch 1, per the June 5 news release.

Space Systems Command’s program executive officer for space sensing, Col. Brian Denaro, stated that the service would review each company’s final designs this fall and decide whether to incorporate a third sensor for Epoch 1. He added that the number of satellites in Epoch 1 had yet to be finalized as the service is still considering options.

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