Lockheed Eyes More Optics Business with New R&D Hub

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WASHINGTON — As part of a $20 million investment it is making over the next year to snare more government contracts for optical technology, Lockheed Martin is creating an Optical Payload Center of Excellence to better direct traffic within the company when opportunities arise to bid.

The new center will occupy 75 square meters of new lab space at Lockheed’s Star Labs facility in Palo Alto, California — a space-focused research and development (R&D) campus formerly known as the Advanced Technology Center, and which employs about 600 people full time.

The new optical payload center will be managed by a director yet to be selected, Lockheed spokesman Mark Lewis said Oct. 1. That director’s task is to make sure that different segments of Lockheed’s space business — classified and unclassified, specifically — know what other segments are up to in optics.

Closer coordination is part of Lockheed’s plan to win more optical payload contracts on “everything from remote sensing, to seekers on missile defense missiles, to telescopes,” Lewis said Oct. 1.

“Having a center like this allows there to be a center point of coordination,” Lewis told SpaceNews. “When there is an opportunity for an optical payload, no matter what line of our business, their first stop would be for the leadership in the center of excellence to decide what is the best path forward.”

A recent example of the type of work the optical payload center is well suited to take on is the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph Lockheed built at the Palo Alto facility for NASA. The ultraviolet observatory, an Astrophysics Small Explorer-class mission developed within a $120 million cost cap, is in the middle of a two-year mission to study the region of the sun where the star’s inner and outer regions meet.

Lockheed’s new Optical Payload Center of Excellence is part of a broader investment in the Palo Alto campus. In March, Lockheed opened the Advanced Materials & Thermal Sciences Center, a 7,600-square-meter facility with room for 130 staff.