WASHINGTON — The U.K. Ministry of Defense awarded contracts to Lockheed Martin and Rhea Group to develop satellite control systems for the nation’s future remote-sensing constellation.

The awards announced last week, each worth about $2.5 million, are part of the U.K. MoD’s ISTARI project, a next-generation constellation of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) satellites in low Earth orbit. 

The U.K. government in 2022 announced plans to invest about $1 billion in the ISTARI program over 10 years. The ISR satellites are projected to launch between 2026 and 2031.

Lockheed Martin UK and Rhea will develop competing mission systems to control ISTARI satellites, and to manage and process data. 

UK ‘building out space ecosystem’

Lockheed Martin UK is the U.K.-based arm of Lockheed Martin Corp. and has in recent years expanded its partnership with the U.K. government on space programs such as space launch activities. Rhea Group is a technology services firm based in Belgium that also operates in the United Kingdom.

 Eric Brown, vice president for mission strategy and advanced capabilities at Lockheed Martin, said the company is looking to grow its military space business in the U.K. It is competing not only for projects under ISTARI but also challenging Airbus in the $7 billion next-generation Skynet 6 strategic communications satellite program.

“The United Kingdom right now is building out their overall space ecosystem to a level that they haven’t in the past,” Brown said. 

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...