- Daily Zen
Lockheed Martin gets billions to develop Next-Gen OPIR satellites for the USSF.
The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded a $4.9 billion contract for the production of three geosynchronous Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared satellites, the Pentagon announced Jan. 4. The DoD’s contract is for U.S. Space Force which is currently in the process of acquiring five OPIR satellites – three from Lockheed and two from Northrop Grumman Corporation.
Lockheed Martin’s contract by the U.S. Space Force covers manufacturing, assembly, integration, testing, and delivery of the three Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared satellites by May 2028. The company will also provide ground mission sensor processing and unique software platforms to the service branch and support NGG SV rocket integration as well as launch and early on-orbit checkout efforts, the DoD said Monday.
“The primary mission of [Next-Gen OPIR] satellites is to provide initial missile warnings of a ballistic missile attack on the U.S., its deployed forces, and its allies, according to Space Force budget documents. “Next-Gen OPIR Space enhances detection and improves reporting of intercontinental ballistic missile launches, submarine launched ballistic missile launches, and tactical ballistic missile launches.”
The Space Force said the Next-Gen OPIR satellites will expand and eventually replace the coverage provided by existing Space Based Infrared System satellites, which were also manufactured by Lockheed Martin. The first Next-Gen OPIR satellite could launch as early as 2025.
The SBIRs were criticized in 2017 by vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and former head of U.S. Strategic Command, Gen. John Hyten who infamously described the satellites as “big juicy targets” for enemy anti-satellite weapons (ASAT).
Defense official have tried to accelerate the NG-OPIR program by asking the Congress to pour $623 million for speedy prototyping. The DoD wants $2.3 billion for OPIR development in fiscal 2021 alone.
The Next-Gen OPIR satellites come with more powerful sensors and other features that make them resilient against attacks than current satellites.
“A space program of this size — which includes developing two entirely new missile warning payloads — has never moved this fast,” said Tom McCormick, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for overhead persistent infrared systems.
Separately, the DoD put approving Lockheed Martin’s $398 program of full-rate production of F-35 on hold, citing combat-testing delays since 2017.
The US Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center will obligate $99 million on the award. Lockheed Martin’s space business will perform work in Sunnyvale, California, through May 31, 2028.