Defense contractor Lockheed Martin last week said it had received an $82 million deal from the U.S. Air Force to start early preparations for two additional satellites in support of the Space-Based Infrared System.
The contract increases to six the number of geosycnchronous orbiters formally on-track to serve as components of the SBIRS network, which is intended to improve the nation's ability to spot potential enemy missiles, augment other U.S. antimissile mechanisms and provide significant new data collection capacities. The United States has fielded one such SBIRS device in space and intends to deploy another next March.
Lockheed Martin is expected to carry out one-time engineering operations pertaining to the fifth and sixth spacecraft as part of the introductory project stage covered by the deal. The company would acquire certain components under the arrangement with an eye to minimizing expenses.
“This initial contract will sustain a steady production rate and by the Air Force acquiring satellites in bulk, rather than one at a time, we can significantly reduce costs by achieving economies of scale,” Jeff Smith, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Overhead Persistent Infrared program, said in released remarks. “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.”
Attainment of additional equipment and assembly of the space instruments would be objectives in the project's second and third stages, the company said.