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Airbus, Raytheon Protest SDA Contract Awards to SpaceX & L3Harris

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
November 11, 2020
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National Defense Space Architecture tracking layer. (Credit: Department of Defense)

Raytheon and Airbus US Space and Defense have filed formal protests with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) over the Space Development Agency’s (SDA) decision to award contracts worth $342.5 million to L3Harris Technologies and SpaceX to build eight missile warning satellites.

L3Harris was awarded a $193.5 million contract and SpaceX a $149 million contract to each build four overhead persistent infrared imaging, or OPIR, satellites to detect and track ballistic and hypersonic missiles.

The eight satellites make up Tracking Layer Tranche 0 of the National Defense Space Architecture. The spacecraft will communicate with 28 satellites that will make up the transport layer using laser communications systems.

SpaceNews reports that Airbus filed the appeal after identifying concerns during a post-award debrief the company received from the government. Raytheon would not comment on its appeal.

Under the contracts, L3Harris and SpaceX are to deliver the tracking satellites by Sept. 30, 2022. However, SDA has issued stop work orders to the two companies until GAO rules on the appeals in February.

4 responses to “Airbus, Raytheon Protest SDA Contract Awards to SpaceX & L3Harris”

  1. Terry Stetler says:
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    They don’t like new kids playing in “their” sandbox.

    • duheagle says:
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      Yes. I’m sure, as the old saying goes, that legacy contractor executives, informed that SpaceX had won a defense-related spacecraft contract, felt as though someone had just walked over their graves.

      • Emmet Ford says:
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        Every satellite manufacturer and operator in the land must be experiencing some level of existential dread as SpaceX tosses up 800 satellites in the blink of an eye, promptly jumps into a retail level public beta in the US and Canada with consumer grade ground stations, and is clearly just getting warmed up. They saw what happened to the launch market, never mind what’s about to happen to it. I really expect to see companies pleading with the government for protection from SpaceX’s “unfair competition.” And it is true that capitalism is not a game that you are actually supposed to win outright. Just ask Teddy Roosevelt.

        • duheagle says:
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          Usain Bolt wins all his races too, but at least it’s not due to there being no other impressive runners in the other lanes. SpaceX vs. the world’s legacy space contractors is a bit like Usain Bolt lining up for a race against, say, Joe Biden (Boeing), Hillary Clinton (LockMart), Bernie Sanders (NorGrum), Elizabeth Warren (Arianespace) and Michael Bloomberg (Roscosmos).

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