Lockheed Martin and SEAKR to develop US Space Force communications payload

Space electronics supplier SEAKR Engineering has been selected by Lockheed Martin to develop a satellite communications payload for the US Space Force. Colarado-based SEAKR will join Lockheed Martin’s team for the Protected Tactical Satcom (PTS) programme in a partnership officially announced this week.

PTS is a next-generation capability connecting warfighters with more agile and jam-resistant SATCOM. The complete system will deploy a constellation of dedicated geostationary satellites, commercially hosted payloads, and coalition partner satellites integrated through a ground control network to provide US and coalition forces protected communications in a data hungry battlespace.

The US government is seeking to harness the innovation of partnerships between traditional defence and non-traditional/small business contractors for PTS. SEAKR will support Lockheed Martin in achieving significant developments in PTS’ anti-jamming capabilities through collaboration on the system’s advanced space digital processor. By leveraging its strength in RF communications, SEAKR will help demonstrate PTS anti-jam capabilities and requirements by building on advanced RF processing technologies employed in its Wolverine RF processing platform.

SEAKR’s processing systems span four generations of architectural capabilities supporting the full spectrum of payload processing performance requirements, with the highest level of on-orbit reconfigurable processing performance.

PTS is continuation of partnership

PTS is a continuation of SEAKR and Lockheed Martin’s working partnership on the first commercial protected communications payload on the Hellas Sat-4/SaudiGeoSat-1 (HS-4/SGS-1) programme and highlights SEAKR’s past success resulting in 120 delivered digital communications processors, routers and payload controllers. Lockheed Martin has developed and built more than 300 payloads for a variety of missions, and has more than 50 years of experience as a payload integrator, developing cutting-edge technologies supporting our nation’s critical missions.

The US Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center awarded PTS contracts to Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman to develop jam-resistant communications payloads to be deployed on dedicated geostationary satellites, commercially hosted payloads and coalition partner satellites.

Prototype payloads will be evaluated over two to three years

SMC plans to select two payloads to be launched in 2024 for on-orbit demonstrations that will last three to five years. Prototype payloads from the three teams will be evaluated over the next two to three years before SMC decides which two of the three will make it to the next phase of the competition.

All three PTS prime contractors are longtime suppliers of military satellites and payloads. Lockheed Martin manufactures the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) military communications satellite, Boeing builds the military’s Wideband Global Satcom satellites and Northrop Grumman developed the AEHF payloads under contract to Lockheed Martin.

The PTS awards are so-called Other Transaction Authority (OTA) agreements that require prime contractors to either co-invest in the programme or partner with nontraditional suppliers. SMC has used more OTA contracts in recent years to promote diversity in its supplier base beyond incumbent contractors. SEAKR was chosen by Lockheed as its nontraditional partner for the PTS programme.