LeoStella, Hera Systems Form Partnership For Joint SDA Proposal

LeoStella’s Tukwila-based manufacturing facility

 The partnership will lean on LeoStella’s Tukwila-based manufacturing facility.

Credit: LeoStella

Small satellite manufacturers LeoStella and Hera Systems have formed a strategic manufacturing partnership and put forward a combined proposal for the U.S. Space Development Agency’s (SDA) Tranche 2 Transport Layer communications satellite constellation.

The two companies will collaborate on manufacturing the Hera Systems’ Leoness Smart Bus, LeoStella said Aug. 28. The Leoness initially was marketed for use in space domain awareness missions.

The combination of the two companies’ efforts will help reduce schedule and supply chain risks, as well as costs, LeoStella says. The collaboration would lean on the “highly efficient manufacturing capabilities of LeoStella.”

LeoStella, a joint venture between aerospace company Thales Alenia Space and satellite imagery company BlackSky, is based in Tukwila, Washington. The company has manufactured 20 small satellites since its founding in 2018—a significant portion of those for BlackSky.

Hera Systems of San Jose, California, has focused on developing spacecraft for space domain awareness, rendezvous and proximity operations, Earth observation, mesh network communications and in-orbit refueling missions from very low-Earth orbit to geostationary orbit. The company was subcontracted by Orion Space Solutions to provide spacecraft for Space System Command’s Tetra-5 mission—an in-space rendezvous, proximity operations, docking and on-orbit servicing demonstration awarded in 2022.

“Our shared pursuit of efficient manufacturing and supply chain management will enhance our competitiveness in a sector known for its complexity,” says Tim Kienberger, LeoStella CEO. “This strategic collaboration will leverage our resources to directly address schedule and delivery risks that other providers encounter due to supply chain constraints, facility limitations and staffing shortages.”

The two companies are up against several larger aerospace primes, such as Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, which already have won contracts to build satellites for SDA’s Beta variant of the Tranche 2 Transport Layer. SDA plans to issue two other contracts for its Tranche 2 Transport Layer: 100 satellites are requested for the Alpha variant and 44 for the Gamma variant.

SDA is buying and launching satellite types in tranches and variants as part of a staged acquisition program aimed at allowing it to take advantage of the latest technology every few years. By offering different tranches and variants, the agency also wants to introduce continuous competition and the opportunity for new bidders—or contractors that lost previous bids—to take another shot at winning its business.

Garrett Reim

Based in the Seattle area, Garrett covers the space sector and advanced technologies that are shaping the future of aerospace and defense, including space startups, advanced air mobility and artificial intelligence.