To give military commanders that early warning ability, Lockheed Martin turned to Raytheon as one of two contractors selected to design the payload for its Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared, or Next Gen OPIR, Block 0 resilient missile warning satellite.
“When the stakes are this high, there’s no room for error,” said Roy Azevedo, president, Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems. “This is an urgent program, so going fast and getting it right the first time are critically important.”
Next Gen OPIR Block 0 will succeed the Space Based Infrared System satellites, or SBIRS, by providing improved, more resilient missile warning. The U.S. Air Force implemented Next Gen OPIR Block 0 as a “Go Fast” acquisition program with Lockheed Martin.
The first geostationary orbiting satellite is targeted for delivery in just 60 months. Raytheon’s contract covers development through system critical design review.
“We have 17 sensors in design and production, some of which are the same magnitude as Next Gen OPIR and were delivered on even shorter schedules,” said Wallis Laughrey, vice president at Raytheon Space Systems. “That gives us a great deal of confidence in our proposed solution. The fact is, we have a 50-year track record of putting sensors in orbit.”
Raytheon produced a wide range of advanced payloads that are currently in orbit, varying in size and scope. Among them is the Infrared Imaging Space Experiment for the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, launched earlier this year. IRISX was delivered in just 29 months.
And the Advanced Responsive, Tactically Effective Military Imaging Sensor, a hyperspectral sensing system for AFRL’s TacSat-3, was designed and delivered in under 15 months. It was launched in May 2009; the U.S. Air Force Space Command took control of the satellite in June 2010.
Because it was designed with open system architecture, performance upgrades for Raytheon’s Next Gen OPIR Block 0 payload can be rapid and affordable.
“There’s a fairly common misconception that fast innovation is exclusive to the commercial industry,” said Laughrey. “But it’s our history in space that enables us to respond quickly.”