U.S. Space Force’s Next-Gen OPIR GEO Missile Warning Satellite Program Completes Payload Preliminary Design Reviews

The U.S. Space Force (USSF) Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC)’s Next-Gen OPIR GEO (NGG) missile warning satellite program completed its preliminary design reviews (PDR) for its two candidate mission payloads, on May 21.

The Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next-Gen OPIR) Geosynchronous Earth Orbiting (GEO) program is developing two infrared mission payloads in a competitive, parallel development effort to mitigate schedule risks for the first NGG satellite launch in 2025.

The two mission payload provider teams, Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems (RSAS) and Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems (NGAS) with Ball Aerospace, will each design, manufacture, assemble, integrate, test, and deliver one mission payload to fly on the first two of three planned NGG  satellites.

Next Gen OPIR GEO Satellite
Rendering of U.S. Air Force’s Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next-Gen OPIR) Geosynchronous Earth Orbiting (GEO), or NGG, missile warning satellite.

“NGG is a critical piece of our missile warning architecture that will deliver a capable, resilient, and defensible missile warning system to counter determined adversaries,” said Col. Dennis Bythewood, program executive officer for Space Development. “This milestone demonstrates our ability to move with deliberate speed, while maintaining the technical and programmatic rigor needed to ensure success.”

As the Space Force pushes for rapid delivery of the first NGG satellite for launch by 2025, this key milestone demonstrates the program is on track. Successfully completing the payload PDRs was especially important, as the payloads are the critical path for the first NGG satellite delivery. The team plans to wrap up the system PDR campaign this fall and drive towards the system critical design review (CDR) in the fall of 2021.

“These reviews demonstrated that the competing NGG mission payload contractors will provide the critical missile warning performance required for our nation to operate in a contested space environment,” said Col. Daniel Walter, the Next Generation OPIR Space Segment program manager. “The two successful reviews were key milestones in demonstrating our readiness to move forward. Our next steps are the build and test of engineering design units, or EDUs, and procurement of critical flight hardware for the first Space Vehicle delivery in 2025.

“The mission payload EDUs will be critical enablers to demonstrate mission capabilities and exercise key integration activities that will burn down program risk before the space flight hardware is delivered.”

The NGG contract was awarded to Lockheed Martin on Aug. 14, 2018 for the design, development, manufacture, integration, test, and delivery of three Next-Gen OPIR GEO space vehicles.

Lockheed Martin held a competitive source selection and awarded subcontracts to both RSAS and NGAS/Ball team for development and build of two separate mission payloads in October 2018. The Government and Lockheed Martin will determine later which of the payloads will integrate on the first and second satellites.

Lockheed Martin will also competitively select one of the two subcontractors to build an additional payload to fly on the third NGG satellite.

Next-Gen OPIR Missile Warning Satellites

The Space Force’s Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next-Gen OPIR, NG-OPIR) satellite system will provide a capable, resilient, and defensible space-based global missile warning capability against emerging threats.

Next-Gen OPIR program will succeed the current Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) by providing improved missile warning capabilities that are more survivable and resilient against emerging threats. The SBIRS program was designed to provide key capabilities in the areas of missile warning, missile defense and battlespace characterization via satellites in geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO), sensors hosted on satellites in highly elliptical orbit (HEO), and ground-based data processing and control.

The first block of the Next-Gen OPIR satellite constellation consists of five satellites: three in Geosynchronous Orbit (GEO), called Next-Gen OPIR GEO (NGG), and two in a polar orbit (Molniya orbit), called Next-Gen OPIR Polar (NGP). Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for the GEO satellites and Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the polar orbit satellites.

The Space Force is targeting the first Next-Gen OPIR launch in 2025.

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