The Air Force said last week that it is interested in procuring a fifth and sixth space based infrared system missile warning satellite. In a Federal Business Opportunities notice posted Dec. 18, the service said it intends to issue a request for proposal for the production of these two additional SBIRS geosynchronous Earth orbit satellites (GEO-5 and GEO-6) in Fiscal 2010, with a contract award early in the following year. But “no firm decisions” have been made to fund the two spacecraft at this time, the notice states. Lockheed Martin is the current provider of the SBIRS GEO satellite design as well as HEO-1 and HEO-2, the SBIRS early warning payloads that reside on classified intelligence satellites operating in highly elliptical orbit. The company is currently testing GEO-1 in preparation for its planned launch in Fiscal 2010. Lockheed is building GEO-2, which is planned for launch in Fiscal 2011, and it is also under contract for the long-lead parts for GEO-3 and HEO-3. Further, the Air Force has said it is retaining the option for GEO-4. According to the notice, the Air Force anticipates that GEO-5 and GEO-6 will be “derivatives of the existing” SBIRS designs “with minimal modifications.” In fact, the Air Force said its desire is “to build nearly identical replicas of the GEO-3 and [GEO-4] units.” However, it adds, there is recognition of the need for “minor design changes” to accommodate parts and material obsolescence and new government-directed design changes. The service notes that it anticipates awarding a sole-source award to Lockheed for GEO-5 and GEO-6. Just yesterday, Lockheed announced that it recently completed manufacture of the remaining subsystems for GEO-2.
Reports of production troubles on the SpaceX rocket that could contend for military cargo deliveries happened to coincide with a different company’s concept receiving an early nod—one that might not require a rocket at all.