Lockheed Martin has awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman to manufacture sensor payloads for two Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) satellites.
Under the terms of the $422m contract, Northrop will produce and deliver payloads for the US Air Force’s (USAF) fifth and sixth SBIRS GEO spacecraft, GEO-5 and GEO-6.
Northrop Grumman Military / Civil Space and Ground business area vice-president Anne Ostroff said: "We are committed to reducing cost and payload development cycle times, while still providing exceptional data to our military and intelligence stake holders."
Earlier this month, the company delivered the satellite payload to Lockheed for integration with the GEO-4 satellite bus.
The SBIRS satellites are designed to deliver timely and accurate warning of missile launches to the US president, defence secretary, combatant commanders and other key decision makers, using a mix of GEO satellites, highly elliptical orbit (HEO) payloads, and related ground hardware and software.
They also support a range of critical missions, such as missile defence, technical intelligence and battlespace awareness.
The USAF initially contracted Lockheed for production of four HEO payloads and four GEO satellites, and followed it up with a $1.9bn award for production of GEO-5 and GEO-6 satellites in June.
The first and second SBIRS GEO spacecraft were launched in May 2011, and March 2013 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, US.
GEO-3 is reportedly undergoing acoustic and thermal vacuum testing at Lockheed’s California facility, and is scheduled to be launched in 2015.
The SBIRS system is operated by the 460th Space Wing at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado, US.
Image: An artistic impression of USAF’s SBIRS GEO spacecraft in orbit. Photo: Public domain.