WASHINGTON — Raytheon Intelligence & Space announced Jan. 4 it selected a Lockheed Martin bus to build a missile-tracking satellite for the U.S. Space Force.

The U.S. Space Systems Command selected two satellite designs — one by Raytheon and the other by Millennium Space Systems — for a planned constellation of sensors in medium Earth orbit (MEO) to detect and track ballistic and hypersonic missiles. Both companies’ proposals last year cleared Space Force design reviews.

The Pentagon is adding a layer of MEO satellites to the nation’s missile-defense architecture to provide extra eyes on enemy hypersonic missiles. Compared to current sensors in geostationary satellites, sensors in medium orbits would see closer to Earth and track a wider area than satellites in low Earth orbit.  

Raytheon won a contract of undisclosed value to develop a prototype satellite, ground systems and data processing applications. 

“This is an advanced solution to counter emerging missile threats facing our country,” said Roger Cole, executive director of strategic systems at Raytheon Intelligence & Space. 

Raytheon’s infrared sensing payload will be integrated on a Lockheed Martin LM400, a new medium-size satellite bus the company introduced in 2021 with security features aimed at the military market.

“Lockheed Martin is excited to provide our mid-sized, rapidly-producible LM400 bus to Raytheon,” said Mike Corriea, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s overhead persistent infrared mission area. 

A “system critical design review” is scheduled for 2023, and the goal is to deliver the satellite for a 2026 launch. Work for this program will be performed at Raytheon’s facilities in El Segundo, California, and Lockheed Martin’s in Aurora, Colorado. 

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...