Northrop Grumman was awarded a $298 million rapid-prototyping contract to design a new anti-jamming communications satellite payload for the U.S. Space Force, the Space and Missile Systems Center announced Sept. 16.

Under the contract, Northrop Grumman will build a payload for the Evolved Strategic SATCOM (ESS) program, a next generation constellation that will provide secure, jam-resistant, survivable communications for military leadership all over the world.

The new system will be interoperable with the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellites currently on orbit. The Space Force wants ESS to have enhanced resilience and cybersecurity capabilities. And unlike AEHF, the new satellites will have polar components to provide communications over the Arctic. Currently, the Enhanced Polar System satellites are used to extend the AEHF network to the polar regions.

The Space and Missile Systems Center could award up to three rapid-prototyping contracts in 2020, according to the Space Force’s fiscal 2021 budget request, before selecting a final contractor to build out the constellation.

It’s not immediately clear how many ESS payloads would be in the constellation, or what satellites they’ll be hosted on.

“Northrop Grumman looks forward to building on more than 40 years of successfully delivering protected satellite communications solutions to our customers,” said Cyrus Dhalla, vice president, communications systems, Northrop Grumman. “ESS is critical to extending our nation’s secure satellite communications infrastructure, as it will provide strategic users with assured, uninterruptable connectivity without fear of discovery anywhere on the globe.”

Work is expected to be completed May 2025.

Nathan Strout was the staff editor at C4ISRNET, where he covered the intelligence community.

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