Categories
Cosmic Space

Pentagon awards $282 million for satellite constellation

Lockheed Martin and York Space Systems will share $281.6 million in contracts from the Pentagon’s Space Development Agency to build the first 20 satellites for a new military data network with global reach.

The network will be capable of sending targeting data directly from a remote-sensing satellite in space to a weapons platform on the ground, making use of laser communications between satellites in low Earth orbit. By the late 2020s, the system is expected to play a key role in countering emerging threats such as hypersonic attack vehicles.

The National Defense Space Architecture is the first major project for the Space Development Agency, which was created last year to foster military technologies on the high frontier.

“This is a very important step toward building the National Defense Space Architecture. It represents one of the Space Development Agency’s first major contract activities, and it might also highlight the importance of SDA — its ability to quickly obligate appropriate funds and execute toward their mission,” Mark Lewis, acting deputy under secretary of defense for research and engineering, told reporters.

“As the Netflix ‘Space Force’ series likes to say, space is hard,” he said. “Space is hard, but sometimes we make it harder than it has to be. The SDA is showing us that sometimes we don’t need to make it that hard.”

The two Colorado-based companies receiving awards today will build 10 satellites each for the first phase of the project, known as Tranche 0. Lockheed Martin is due to receive $187,542,641 under the terms of a firm, fixed-price contract. York Space Systems, a relative newcomer in the satellite industry, will receive $94,036,666.

Tranch 0’s data-transport-layer satellites are to be launched no later than September 2022, with a “capstone” demonstration of the mesh network’s capabilities planned in late 2022 or early 2023.

SDA Director Derek Tournear said today’s contracts represent the first step for a network that will comprise hundreds of satellites by 2026.

“We’re pushing on completely developing a new architecture that breaks the old model,” Tournear said. A big part of the new model will involve relying on commercial providers and “spiral development” to add innovations as the constellation is built out, he said.

“We’ll see this as an era of new space, basically showing the concept that you can utilize commoditized components in a very rapid manner to meet military utility and military specifications,” Tournear said.

Each set of 10 spacecraft will include seven equipped with the hardware for four laser-enabled optical cross-links between satellites. The other three satellites will have two optical cross-links, plus a standard Link 16 transceiver to communicate with ground installations.

Tournear said the satellites will be interoperable with other commercial and military space assets — including remote-sensing spacecraft, military communication satellites and commercial telecom constellations. He told me his team is talking with ventures including SpaceX, which already has launched hundreds of satellites in low Earth orbit for its Starlink broadband network. (Other parts of the U.S. military are testing Starlink’s capabilities for military applications.)

The Space Development Agency says the satellites will be sent into orbits ranging from 600 to 1,200 kilometers (370 to 740 miles) in altitude. That’s higher than the altitude that was recommended last week for minimizing negative effects on astronomical observations. But Tournear noted that the Tranch 0 satellites will be smaller and less numerous than, say, Starlink satellites.

The first batches of satellites won’t make use of the brightness-reducing measures that SpaceX has been implementing, he said. But there’ll be many more satellites to come.

“We’re going to be building out roughly one satellite a week for each of the [orbital] layers … and then launching them out on a cadence that allows us to replenish and add new capabilities that we’re going to be soliciting,” Tournear said.

In its contract announcement, the Department of Defense said the work of building the Tranche 0 satellites would be done in seven U.S. states plus Germany, Canada and Spain.

About 3.3% of York’s work is to be performed in Bothell, Wash., the Pentagon said. Bothell-based Tethers Unlimited has partnered with York previously, and Tethers CEO Bob Hoyt told me that his company has been in on some of York’s proposals for the National Defense Space Architecture. But he said he hasn’t yet heard whether Tethers Unlimited will play a role in the contract awarded today.

Categories
GeekWire

Blue Origin team hands NASA a lunar lander mock-up

An all-star space industry team led by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture has assembled a mock-up of its proposed lunar lander right where it’ll do the most good, in a training area at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Texas.

The full-scale engineering module showcases Blue Origin’s Blue Moon descent element, which Bezos unveiled last year; as well as the ascent element designed by Lockheed Martin. It stands more than 40 feet tall in Johnson Space Center’s Space Vehicle Mockup Facility, alongside mock-ups of the space shuttle, space station modules and next-generation space capsules.

Members of the industry team — from Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin as well as Northrop Grumman and Draper — will collaborate with NASA engineers and astronauts to test out the lander’s usability and make any necessary tweaks in preparation for crewed lunar landings that could begin as early as 2024. The tweaks could address such details as the size of the hatch, the placement of the windows and the arrangement of the controls.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Aerojet signs up to build hardware for moon trips

Aerojet - Lockheed Martin signing
Lockheed Martin’s Mike Hawes and Scott Jones sign copies of a contract for Orion rocket hardware, after Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Ken Young and Cheryl Rehm take their turn. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

REDMOND, Wash. — Representatives of Aerojet Rocketdyne and Lockheed Martin put their signatures on a contract for up to $170 million worth of rocket hardware that’ll be installed on Orion spacecraft heading to the moon — with dozens of employees who’ll actually build that hardware watching the proceedings.

“These are the things you’re going to be talking to your grandchildren about,” Cheryl Rehm, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s senior director of Redmond programs, told company employees here at today’s signing ceremony.

The ceremony highlighted Redmond’s role in NASA’s Artemis moon landings.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Jeff Bezos announces Blue Moon lander team

Jeff Bezos
m Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos discusses his space ambitions during a fireside chat at the International Astronautical Congress in Washington, D.C. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos says his Blue Origin space venture is heading up a team of top space companies — including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper — to build a landing system to take NASA astronauts to the moon as early as 2024.

“This is a national team for a national priority,” Bezos said here at the International Astronautical Congress, where he received the International Astronomical Federation’s first Excellence in Industry Award on Blue Origin’s behalf.

Blue Origin would serve as the prime contractor for the lander project, with its Blue Moon lander serving as the heart of the system.

Bezos said Northrop Grumman, which built the lunar lander for the Apollo program a half-century ago, would be responsible for the orbital transfer vehicle that would take astronauts from a moon-orbiting Gateway platform to a lower lunar orbit.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Lockheed Martin looks into clouds of satellites

Satellite swarm
NASA and Lockheed Martin have been studying how small satellites could be knit together into a distributed swarm. (NASA Illustration)

More and more computing is being done in the cloud, but so far, the cloud-based approach hasn’t been applied in space.

Lockheed Martin is thinking about changing that.

The aerospace giant has already registered two trademarks for satellite cloud systems — HiveStar and SpaceCloud — and it’s considering how the approach can be applied to a range of space missions.

Yvonne Hodge, vice president and chief information officer at Colorado-based Lockheed Martin Space, lifted the curtain on the HiveStar project last week at Amazon’s re:MARS conference in Las Vegas.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Lockheed Martin has its head in the space cloud

Cloud computing in space
Satellites could extend cloud computing to the final frontier. (Lockheed Martin Illustration)

Is the final frontier the next frontier for cloud computing?

One of the presentations planned for Amazon’s re:MARS conference in June suggests that Lockheed Martin is putting serious thought into the idea of space-based cloud services. The presentation, titled “Solving Earth’s Biggest Problems With a Cloud in Space,” features Yvonne Hodge, vice president and chief information officer at Lockheed Martin Space.

Just because an executive is talking about the subject doesn’t necessarily mean the aerospace giant has a plan in the works. But the concept would fit in nicely with Lockheed Martin’s previously announced partnership with Amazon on AWS Ground Station, a cloud-based satellite communications and control service.

It’s also worth noting that Amazon unveiled plans this month for a 3,236-satellite constellation, code-named Project Kuiper, which would make broadband internet access available to the estimated 4 billion people around the world who are currently underserved.

Extending cloud networks into space would provide yet another boost for global commerce, and potentially for global welfare as well.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Lockheed Martin wins $31M for Scottish spaceport

Lockheed Martin is in line to receive $31 million (£23.5 million) in grants from the UK Space Agency to establish Britain’s first spaceport on Scotland’s north coast, and to develop a new made-in-Britain system for deploying small satellites in orbit.

The British government announced the grants today, only hours after lifting the curtain on its plan to develop a vertical-launch spaceport in Scotland’s rugged Sutherland district and support the rise of horizontal-launch spaceports in other British locales.

In addition to Lockheed Martin’s grants, another $7 million (£5.5 million) will be awarded to London-based Orbex to support the development of its Prime rocket for launch from the Sutherland spaceport. The Prime rocket is designed to be fueled by bio-propane and will deliver payloads of up to 330 pounds to low Earth orbit.

Orbex said today in a separate announcement that it has raised a total of $40 million in public and private funding for the development of orbital launch systems.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Lockheed Martin wins NASA’s nod for supersonic jet

Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator
An artist’s conception shows the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator at work. (NASA Illustration)

NASA says Lockheed Martin will be its partner in building a supersonic test plane that’s designed to muffle sonic booms and clear the way for a new boom in faster-than-sound passenger flights.

California-based Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. won the $247.5 million contract to build the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator, or LBFD, after putting in the sole bid for the project, NASA officials said today.

NASA’s acting administrator, Robert Lightfoot, said boom-reducing aerodynamics will be a “game-changer” for civilian flight — a view that was voiced by other officials as well.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Lockheed Martin adds a lander to Mars vision

Mars lander
An artist’s conception shows Lockheed Martin’s lander on Mars. (Lockheed Martin Illustration)

Lockheed Martin has fleshed out its picture for sending astronauts to the Red Planet by adding a refuelable lander and a water-based fuel supply chain to its “Mars Base Camp” mission architecture.

The system, updated today at the International Astronautical Congress in Australia, could make use of resources provided by asteroid mining companies such as Redmond, Wash.-based Planetary Resources.

Danielle Richey, a space exploration architect at Lockheed Martin, said the updated Mars Base Camp concept could help NASA “start exploring the Martian system in about a decade.”

Although NASA has said it wants to start sending astronauts to Mars and its moons by the 2030s, the space agency isn’t yet anywhere close to selecting any detailed plan to get there.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Pentagon makes a deal for 90 F-35 fighters

F-35 jet
An F-35 Lightning II fighter jet prepares to land. (U.S. Air Force Photo / Alex R. Lloyd)

The Pentagon has struck a deal with Lockheed Martin for the purchase of 90 F-35 stealth fighter jets at a cost that adds up to nearly $9 billion, finishing up negotiations highlighted by President Donald Trump’s threats to walk away.

It’s the latest order in what’s expected to amount to nearly $400 billion in sales for Lockheed Martin, involving thousands of the jets.

This round, known as Lot 10, marks the first time that the per-jet purchase price for an F-35A has been below $100 mlilion. Lockheed Martin said Lot 10 reflects a $728 million reduction in the total price, compared with the previous lot.

The cost reduction is basically in line with what Lockheed Martin and Pentagon officials were expecting, even before Trump started complaining about the program last December.

Get the full story on GeekWire.