Lockheed Martin lost $410 million on latest three commercial satellite orders

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WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin says it lost $410 million on the first three commercial satellites built on its new LM2100 platform, including the JCSAT-17 satellite Arianespace launched Feb. 18 on an Ariane 5 rocket.

The other two commercial satellites built at a loss were Arabsat-6A and SaudiGeoSat-1/Hellas Sat-4, two Arabsat spacecraft that launched last year following manufacturing and launch vehicle delays. 

The LM2100 is the culmination of a multiyear modernization initiative meant to make Lockheed Martin more competitive against Maxar Technologies, Airbus Defence and Space, and other manufacturers that routinely win commercial geostationary satellite orders. The platform features 26 upgrades, including improved solar arrays, propellant tanks and flight software.

Lockheed Martin, in a Feb. 7 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said the three satellites “experienced performance issues related to the development and integration” of their LM2100 platforms. 

“As of December 31, 2019, cumulative losses remained at approximately $410 million for these programs,” the company said.

Arabsat’s satellites were both expected to launch in 2018, but instead launched in 2019 — one of which, Arabsat-6A, was late in part due to delays with SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket. Arabsat spokesperson Saad Al Tehaif did not respond to a Feb. 10 SpaceNews inquiry about how manufacturing delays contributed to both satellites being late. JCSAT-17 was expected to launch in the second half of 2019. 

Guy Beutelschies, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for communication satellite solutions, made what appeared to be an oblique reference to the company’s challenges during a speech immediately following the JCSAT-17 launch Tuesday. 

“It has been a long journey for us, but I just want to say how proud we are at Lockheed Martin to be able to deliver one of the largest and most technologically advanced satellites to our customer,” he said. 

Sky Perfect JSAT CEO Eiichi Yonekura praised Lockheed Martin’s work on JCSAT-17.

“We always trust your technology,” he said in a speech. “We always rely on your reputation and experience.”

Lockheed Martin has not announced any additional commercial LM2100 satellite sales since booking the JCSAT-17 order in 2016. The company is building five LM2100 satellites for the U.S. military — two Space-Based Infrared System satellites and three Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared satellites — all of which are designed to detect missile launches. 

In a statement provided Feb. 19, Beutelschies defended the company’s LM2100 investments. 

“The completion and launch of the first three modernized LM 2100 satellites demonstrates Lockheed Martin’s technology investment in our entire satellite portfolio and we stand behind that research and development investment,” he said. “With the first two LM 2100 satellites, we’ve space-qualified the more than 26 major improvements to the LM 2100 bus and are now able to offer that as a baseline to all of our customers.”

Lockheed Martin’s SEC filing also mentions a Japanese contract for multiple LM2100 satellites. 

 The customer, according to a Lockheed Martin source, is with Sky Perfect JSAT, whose 2016 JCSAT-17 contract includes an as-yet unexercised option for a second satellite.