The Space Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $253.6 million contract to develop a payload that would provide a higher level of protection to war fighters relying on satellite communications on the battlefield.

The contract is for the Protected Tactical SATCOM payload, the service announced Feb. 12.

Protected Tactical SATCOM (PTS) is the Space Force’s planned next generation anti-jamming satellite system, which will provide tactical communications for war fighters all over the world — including the polar regions — using the Protected Tactical Waveform. As PTS is developed, the Space Force plans to begin offering Protected Tactical Waveform communications over the Wideband Global SATCOM system and later commercial satellites systems.

The Space Force said in a statement it will award up to four payload development contracts. According to the FY 2021 Space Force budget request, the service is employing a spiral development strategy that will incrementally deploy prototypes progressively demonstrating new anti-jamming technologies. The payloads will be designed to potentially be hosted on other satellites as a cost saving measure.

The contract was awarded through the Space Enterprise Consortium.

“We are excited to partner with Northrop Grumman to enable the rapid development of a protected communications prototype payload,” said Col. Dennis O. Bythewood, program executive officer for the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Development Corps. “The technology maturation and prototyping effort conducted under the SpEC (Space Enterprise Consortium) Other Transaction Agreement will allow SMC to harness the innovation of partnerships between traditional defense and non-traditional/small business contractors with a projected on-orbit capability three years earlier than a traditional acquisition.”

Nathan Strout covers space, unmanned and intelligence systems for C4ISRNET.