The project of the Northrop Grumman Corporation and Ball Aerospace consortium assuming the construction of a special sensor for the new satellite ballistic missile launch detection system – NG-OPIR has passed through the assessment stage made by the client, i.e. the US Space Force.
At this point, it is worth bearing in mind that the above team is not the only one selected to present the technical concept of the key element of the new satellites. The second is the concern Raytheon, which is working in parallel on its solution of this type. This is due to the requirements set by the Pentagon that the main producers of the input five NG OPIR satellites: Northrop Grummani i Lockheed Martin selected subcontractors to work on essential components for their constellation parts. All this in order to be able to choose the best solution at a later date.
Ultimately, the satellites to be the successors of the existing SBIRS early warning system are to debut no sooner than in 2025. Much earlier, however, the Pentagon will have to decide which sensor team will be integrated with the satellite. The time has until 2023 to integrate the said sensor with the first NG-OPIR satellite.
The technical project approved for further development concerns the segment of NG OPIR geosynchronous satellites, for which Lockheed Martin is responsible. The contract was awarded on the basis of a $ 4.9 billion contract in January this year for the production of three satellites and the connection of their sensors and components. The first payload from this order is expected to hit orbit in 2025.
The remainder of the completion of NG OPIR consists of two satellites in polar orbits. Last year, $ 2.4 billion was awarded to the defense group Northrop Grumman to manufacture, integrate and deploy such instruments. These, in turn, will not appear in orbit until 2027, but the entire constellation to be completed in space by 2029.
The control of the American early warning systems is exercised by the Space Delta 4 unit, located at the space force base in Buckley, Colorado. At the same time, it manages two other constellations: SBIRS and the much older Defense Support Program, which dates back to the 1960s. In addition, it has ground radars under its command, which are also used to capture ballistic missile launches.
In May this year. the penultimate start of the SBIRS GEO-5 instrument took place. Despite the original ambitious plans for the far-reaching development of the SBIRS constellation, the program was discontinued – this decision is due to the fact that in 2018 the US government voted to end the program for financial reasons, focusing on the more modern NG-OPIR. The last launch of SBIRS is scheduled for 2022.