Lockheed Martin unveils new satellite bus lineup

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NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — With both military and commercial customers seeking more choices in satellite size and orbit, Lockheed Martin has rolled out a new family of satellite buses that consolidate the customized spacecraft the company has previously developed.

Banking on the development of common components for satellite buses ranging in size from several centimeters to more than nine meters, Lockheed expects to deliver on orders more cheaply and quickly, said Kay Sears, vice president of strategy and business development for Lockheed Martin Space Systems, during a Sept. 19 luncheon briefing on the new lineup at the annual Air Force Association Air Cyber Space conference.

“There are benefits to commonality,” she said, noting the satellites will be built more inexpensively, quickly and reliably.

For the first time, all of Lockheed’s satellite buses will share common components, with more than 280 having been identified in an effort to create a lineup of satellite buses. Sears said that effort has taken about five years and cost about $300 million.

The core elements of each bus will retain commonality with other buses for a wide range of components, including propulsion, reaction wheels, gimbals, power regulation, solar arrays, battery technology, thermal control and software and avionics.

Such component commonality, Sears said, will enable the company to leverage its supply chain more effectively. Lockheed software systems will also make each bus rapidly reconfigurable, depending on the particular mission need or type of satellite.

The smallest member of the new lineup is the LM 50 series of flexible nanosat buses. Weighing 10 to 100 kilograms, the spacecraft are being develop with Terran Orbital, which, Sears said, offers advanced nanosat technology and operational experience that Lockheed lacks. Lockheed Martin Ventures announced in June an unspecified “strategic investment” in Terran Orbital, a nanosatellite manufacturer.

Sears noted the Air Force in particular likely would be interested in the nanosats for technological and operational testing.

Weighing between 140 and 800 kilograms, the LM 400 series of spacecraft is an upgraded version of the company’s legacy small satellite bus with added propulsion and the ability to fly low Earth orbit, geostationary orbit or even interplanetary missions. Thanks to 3-D printing and other production improvements, Sears said, Lockheed can deliver the satellite as quickly as 24 months after an order is placed.

The LM 1000 series is Lockheed’s newest bus for mid-sized missions. It weighs between 275 and 2,200 kilograms and is built for multiple orbits or interplanetary missions. It shares a great deal of commonality with the larger LM 2100 to reduce cost and host higher-power payloads, such as remote sensing missions.

The LM 2100 series is the largest satellite bus, weighing up to 2,300 kilograms. It is a modernized version of the A2100 bus with 26 improvements that add more power and flexibility, the company said, such as Hall thrusters and a multi-mission solar array.

“We now have one family for every mission fully integrated with our end-to-end capabilities in ground stations, payloads and software applications,” Rick Ambrose, Lockheed Martin Space Systems executive vice president, said in a statement about the new satellite bus lineup.

As part of the satellite bus rollout, Sears said Lockheed is also offering an improved integrated ground system with a common-code backbone making it possible for it to operate an array of multiple satellites in different orbits.

The ground systems are capturing a great deal of attention with customers, she said. “The Air Force is particularly interested in that.”