Lockheed Martin, US Space Force conduct critical review for space-based missile warning system

Lockheed Martin and the US Space Force have conducted the system level Critical Design Review (CDR) for the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (NGG) Block 0 space…


Lockheed Martin and the US Space Force have conducted the system level Critical Design Review (CDR) for the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (NGG) Block 0 space programme.

The review marks another significant step toward the first NGG satellite launch in 2025. NGG is the Space Force’s new, advanced space-based missile warning system which incorporates improved warning capabilities as well as enhanced resiliency and cyber hardening. Dubbed by the US Department of Defense as a “Go Fast” acquisition programme – meaning a quicker delivery timeline – NGG will provide early warning for the defensive “kill chain” that protects the US and armed forces from missile threats. The new system responds to challenges from rival nations that increasingly seek to erode space advantages held by the United States.

Joseph Rickers, Lockheed Martin vice president and program manager for NGG Block 0 said: “Our adversaries are finding ways to make missile warning more difficult. They are also posing threats to space assets themselves. NGG was specifically designed as a ‘Go Fast’ programme to maintain and grow our nation’s advanced technology edge ahead of the threat.”

Review addressed integration between space and ground segments

The NGG Block 0 program held the system level CDR on October 28, maintaining the programme’s accelerated pace. The CDR specifically addressed the integration between the space and ground segments in addition to the integration of the Next Generation Interim Operations Ground System with the legacy Missile Warning system, enabling enhanced missile warning capabilities following launch.

Lockheed Martin, in partnership with the US Space Force, is developing and building three satellites that provide improved missile warning capabilities and are even more resilient against emerging threats under the programme. The first satellite, which is set for launch in 2025, will carry new advanced infrared sensors that can detect dimmer and faster targets.

The system level CDR is the latest milestone the programme has met since the 2018 contract award. Earlier this year, under Lockheed Martin’s prime contractor leadership, NGG completed CDRs for two mission payloads being competitively developed by subcontractor teams Raytheon and a Northrop Grumman/Ball team. One of the two mission payloads will each fly on the first two NGG space vehicles. The team completed a separate space vehicle CDR, which aggregated numerous subsystem and payload reviews, and locked in the satellite’s technical baseline.

Space programmes have “never moved this fast”

“A space programme of this size, which includes developing two entirely new missile warning payloads, has never moved this fast,” added Rickers. “The programme is on schedule due to using proven technologies and risk mitigation tools like subsystem prototypes for early design verification and interface integration to ensure we remain on track.”

Lockheed Martin’s NGG programme is embracing digital transformation as a way to deliver next generation capabilities quicker and faster. The company is using digital engineering capabilities including digital twin, artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, along with augmented reality to speed production, integration and test and enabling the rapid transition to operations.

For even more speed, greater resiliency and cyber-hardening, NGG is being built on Lockheed Martin’s LM 2100 Combat Bus. The modernised space vehicle provides enhanced spacecraft power, propulsion and electronics, as well as common components and procedures to streamline manufacturing. It features a flexible design that reduces the cost to incorporate future, modernised sensor suites or other mission augmentation capabilities.

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