Lockheed Orders Hardware from Astrium for Jabiru-1

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PARIS — Astrium Satellites will provide Ku- and Ka-band payload hardware for the Jabiru-1 commercial telecommunications satellite being built for NewSat of Australia under a contract with Jabiru-1 prime contractor Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Astrium announced July 19.

The contract represents a breakthrough for Astrium’s product division, which is positioning itself to win business with Astrium Satellites’ prime contractor competitors in addition to providing in-house components for Astrium-built satellites.

Andreas Lindenthal, head of Astrium’s products department, said the contract illustrates an increasingly common practice among satellite prime contractors that test the open market with value-for-money considerations rather than automatically purchasing from their own divisions.

“All of the primes are doing this,” Lindenthal said. “They test the market for make-or-buy decisions to determine whether someone else can deliver a product more quickly, or less expensively, or one that is state of the art. Astrium has made a conscious decision to extend our business with external contracts. Our contract with NASA is another example of this.”

NASA and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, in 2011 selected Astrium to supply a high-precision fiber-optic gyro unit for the Joint Polar Satellite System meteorological program.

In a July 20 interview, Lindenthal said Astrium was well-positioned for the Lockheed contract following a development program for Ku-band communications receivers and Ka-band beacons, which was funded in part by the European Space Agency and the U.K. Space Agency.

As a result of this effort, called the Generic Flexible Payload program, Astrium has been able to develop satellite electronics gear that is 60 percent generic, meaning it can be applied to any given communications satellite regardless of prime contractor.

The generic product line allows Astrium to produce larger batches of the communications equipment, reducing unit costs and giving the company a stock of hardware that can speed delivery times. The remaining 40 percent that is specific to a given satellite program “can be completed in a couple of months,” Lindenthal said.

The Hylas 1 satellite launched in November 2006 for Avanti Communications of London was the first Astrium-built satellite that made full use of the Generic Flexible Payload investment.