Lockheed Martin has been awarded a contract to start initial work on the US Air Force's (USAF) fifth and sixth space-based infrared system (SBIRS) geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) satellites.
Valued at $82m, the initial contract represents the first of three GEO-5 and 6 satellite acquisition phases, and covers completion of non-recurring engineering activities and purchase of select long lead spacecraft parts by the company to help supplier production lines offer the lowest possible price for each component.
Procurement of the remaining long lead parts, as well as satellite production, is scheduled to be subsequently funded by the second and third acquisition phases under a fixed-price contract scheme.
Lockheed Martin Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) mission area vice president Jeff Smith said the contract will support a steady production rate and will significantly reduce the programme costs as the air force is procuring satellites in bulk, as opposed to one at a time.
''We understand both the importance of the SBIRS mission and the weight of the current fiscal environment - and we are committed to delivering mission success affordably and efficiently for the Air Force,'' Smith said.
The SBIRS satellites are designed to provide timely and accurate warning for missile launches to the US government, using a combination of four GEO satellites, two highly elliptical earth (HEO) payloads, as well as related ground hardware and software.
To date, Lockheed has received contracts for production of four HEO payloads, four GEO satellites, as well as ground assets for acquisition, processing and dissemination of the infrared mission data.
The SBIRS GEO-1 was launched by USAF from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station onboard an Atlas V rocket on 7 May 2011, and the GEO-2 is scheduled for launch in March 2013, while the GEO-3 and GEO-4 are currently under various stages of development.