WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman announced Tuesday they have selected payload providers for their respective segments of the Space Force’s Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared program.

Both companies are on contract to build a portion of the first block of Next-Gen OPIR satellites — Lockheed to develop three satellites based in geostationary orbit and Northrop two polar satellites destined for highly elliptical orbit. Next-Gen OPIR is the successor to today’s Space-Based Infrared System, which detects and tracks ballistic missiles.

Lockheed and Northrop both staged competitions for their satellites’ mission payloads. For the GEO segment, Lockheed chose Raytheon Technologies and a Northrop and Ball Aerospace team to develop payloads for the first two satellites and announced today that it has chosen Raytheon’s design for the third satellite. Northrop, which was also choosing between a polar payload it developed with Ball and a second built by Raytheon, selected its own team’s payload for the two polar satellites.

Lockheed in 2018 received a $2.9 billion development contract for the first three GEO satellites, followed by a $4.9 billion contract last year for manufacturing. The Space Force in 2020 awarded Northrop a $2.37 billion contract for the polar segment.

Joseph Rickers, Lockheed’s vice president for the Next-Gen OPIR GEO program, said in a press release Tuesday both teams are making good progress on their payloads.

“For this ‘Go-Fast’ program, both teams had to meet stringent schedule and performance requirements — which they’ve done,” Rickers said. “I want to thank both teams for their tireless work and we look forward to the first flights of both the mission payloads.”

Both GEO providers have completed critical design reviews and environmental testing and are expected to deliver their first payloads to Lockheed in 2023. The first GEO launch is scheduled for 2025.

Northrop’s Vice President for OPIR and Geospatial Systems Sarah Willoughby said in a release the team’s solution “combines Northrop Grumman’s proven experience in missile warning and defense with Ball Aerospace’s expertise in optical sensors and mission data processing.”

“Our team’s solution for NGP will assure continuous coverage of the northern hemisphere — especially the Arctic region — to protect against incoming threats,” Willoughby said.

Northrop and Ball will develop the two payloads at Northrop’s facility in Azusa, California.

Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET's space and emerging technology reporter. She previously covered the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force for Inside Defense.

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