Lockheed Martin Gets $5 Billion Production Contract for Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared Satellites

Speaking of missile warning satellites, Lockheed Martin’s existing contract for the Next-Gen OPIR satellites got a huge modification, covering production and support:

Lockheed Martin Space, Sunnyvale, California, has been awarded a not-to-exceed $4,934,360,150 undefinitized modification (P00034) to contract FA8810-18-C-0005 which consists of all work associated with the manufacturing, assembly, integration, test, and delivery of three Next Generation Geosynchronous (NGG) Earth orbiting space vehicles (SV), and delivery of ground mission unique software and ground sensor processing software.  Additionally, this modification includes engineering support for launch vehicle integration and launch and early on-orbit checkout for all three NGG SVs.

This adds to the contract awarded in August, 2018 for $2.9 billion, covering early design and development work. That puts these three satellites somewhere in the $2–2.5 billion range each.

These satellites are no doubt powerful and quite capable, but they’re astonishingly expensive and made in small production runs, which is why the Space Development Agency and other organizations are interested in seeing what can be done with a constellation of sensors.

Not only would a constellation be more resilient to technical failures or nefarious actions, their overall cost is more manageable because you’re spreading the development cost and risk over many generations of satellites rather than banking on nothing going wrong during your short production run. See also, GOES-17.

It’ll be interesting to see both of these programs progress in parallel for the next few years. That might finally let us move on from merely debating constellations versus big, expensive satellites for these types of use cases.