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York Space Systems
Spacecraft manufacturer York Space Systems won a Pentagon contact worth up to $200 million, announced Thursday, to build experimental satellites for the military’s Space Development Agency (SDA).
Known as the T1DES system, York will build and operate 12 prototype satellites that will test satellite communications from low Earth Orbit, as an addition to the “Tranche 1 Transport Layer” (T1TL) network that SDA is already building. York previously won $328 million as part of a larger contract to build satellites for T1TL.
“We are very appreciative to have the continued trust of SDA in helping to fulfill their vision of the future,” York founder and CEO Dirk Wallinger said in a statement.
York earlier this week announced new private equity ownership and investment by AE Industrial Partners and BlackRock. As CNBC reported on Tuesday, the deal makes York the latest space unicorn – with a valuation over $1 billion.
SDA director Derek Tournear said during a press briefing on Thursday that work on the T1DES satellites will begin shortly, with launches planned for 2025 and the program’s timeline of flight operations extending out to 2031.
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Tournear explained that T1DES is experimental since the system will attempt to use satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) to demonstrate communications capabilities currently served by satellites in geosynchronous orbit (GEO).
“There are actually a lot of technical challenges that we need to prove out to show that the technology can be applied from moving it from geosynchronous down to LEO,” Tournear said.
SDA received six bids for the T1DES contract, Tournear noted before declining to comment on the price ranges of the other companies’ bids. At less than $17 million per satellite, Tournear said “the York solution came back to be very affordable.”
The Space Force acquisition group is now focused on building its Transport Layer system, although SDA has already seen supply chain issues from the various companies under contract.
“Every day we continue to chase down gremlins to make sure that we can get the parts and and the labor needed to deliver on time,” Tournear said.