WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin received a $1 billion contract to operate and maintain the ground control systems of the U.S. military’s Space Based Infrared System geostationary satellites, the U.S. Space Force announced June 4. 

SBIRS is part of the Defense Department’s missile warning network that detects ballistic missile launches. It includes a combination of two infrared sensors in highly elliptical orbit and five satellites in geosynchronous Earth orbit. 

Lockheed Martin has been the SBIRS primary contractor since the mid-1990s. The fifth satellite launched May 18. The sixth and final SBIRS is in production and projected to launch in 2022. 

The five-year sole-source contract is for operations and maintenance of the SBIRS mission control center at Buckley Space Force Base, Colorado, and other operations centers at Peterson Air Force Base and Greeley Air National Guard Station.

Rob Walker, Lockheed Martin’s director of overhead persistent infrared operations and sustainment, said the contract covers logistics support of existing ground systems and upgrades needed to operate the last two satellites of the SBIRS geosynchronous constellation SBIRS GEO-5 and SBIRS GEO-6.

The Space Force plans to transition to a new network of missile warning satellites called Next-Generation Overhead  Persistent Infrared and a new ground system called Future Operationally Resilient Ground Evolution (FORGE). Lockheed Martin is under contract to produce three Next-Gen OPIR geosynchronous satellites, the first of which is projected to launch in 2025.

Walker said this new contract funds work to maintain and sustain infrastructure for the next generation Future Operationally Resilient Ground Evolution ground control system and ensure the SBIRS GEO-5 and GEO-6 satellites are incorporated into the operational constellation.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...