Boeing, Lockheed win U.S. Space Force contracts to develop satcom payloads

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Boeing and Lockheed Martin join Northrop Grumman as the three prime contractors for Protected Tactical Satcom payload development.

WASHINGTON — Boeing and Lockheed Martin were selected to develop jam-resistant communications payloads under the Protected Tactical Satcom (PTS) program, the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center announced March 3.

Boeing and Lockheed Martin each received $191 million and $240 million contracts, respectively. They will join Northrop Grumman as the three prime contractors for PTS payload development. Northrop Grumman last month was awarded a $253 million contract.

The three companies will develop jam-resistant payloads to be deployed on a military or commercial satellite. The Space and Missile Systems Center plans to select two payloads to be launched in 2024 for on-orbit demonstrations that will last three to five years.

The U.S. Air Force started the PTS program in 2018 to develop secure satcom services for government agencies and military forces so they are less dependent on the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites, which are used for classified-level communications.

PTS is intended for tactical users and operators, as well as international allies. The Defense Department wants the communications services provided by AEHF to be used primarily for strategic operations like nuclear command and control.

The PTS payloads will be deployed on satellites in geosynchronous Earth orbit so they are compatible with military satcom terminals with stationary antennas that point only to GEO satellites.

All three PTS prime contractors are longtime suppliers of military satellites and payloads. Lockheed Martin is the AEHF prime contractor, Boeing builds the military’s Wideband Global Satcom satellites and Northrop Grumman developed the AEHF payloads under contract to Lockheed Martin.