ARLINGTON, Va. — The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) picked up options with Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver to build two more storm-watching geostationary weather satellites, the head of the company’s civil space business said here.

The options bring to four the number of spacecraft Lockheed Martin is building under NOAA’s Geostationary-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-R program. At the time the contract was awarded in 2008 — Lockheed Martin beat out incumbent Boeing to win the award — NOAA said its total potential value, including all options, was more than $1 billion.

The newly ordered satellites, GOES-T and GOES-U, are scheduled to launch in 2019 and 2024, respectively, Lockheed Martin spokesman Gary Napier said May 14. The GOES-T option is worth $175.9 million, and the GOES-U option is worth $139.7 million, NOAA spokesman John Leslie wrote in a May 14 email.

“For us, exercising options in this [budget] environment is really good news,” Jim Crocker, vice president and general manager of civil space at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, said here May 14 during the company’s 2013 media day.

The first two satellites in the series, GOES-R and GOES-S, are slated to launch in 2015 and 2017, respectively. Both will fly to space on United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rockets from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida under a $446 million contract awarded by NASA in August.

Leslie said exercising Lockheed’s two options will “greatly reduce [the] overall cost” of the GOES program.

“Interrupting the production continuity between GOES-R and GOES-S and GOES–T and GOES-U would result in production inefficiencies, supplier discontinuities, parts obsolescence, and difficulties in retaining skilled workforce and/or rehiring issues,” Leslie wrote. “By exercising … options, NOAA will avoid these inefficiencies and meet its observational requirement for on-orbit availability of two operating imagers through 2036.”

NOAA notionally maintains two operating GOES satellites, one each overlooking eastern and western portions of the U.S. mainland. Currently the are four GOES spacecraft on orbit, the newest of which launched in 2010, the oldest in 2001.

Dan Leone is a SpaceNews staff writer, covering NASA, NOAA and a growing number of entrepreneurial space companies. He earned a bachelor’s degree in public communications from the American University in Washington.