According to a company employee, Lockheed Martin is reconfiguring the bus used by Global Positioning System satellites so that they can be updated with new hardware when in space. This is important, according to Eric Brown, who serves as the senior director in charge of the military space mission planning at Lockheed Martin because the current thinking is that “once everything was in orbit, you were finished with it.” As capacities for in-space maintenance as well as logistics are available in the coming years, he predicts that thought will change.
The revamped LM2100 commercial bus will be utilized for the GPS 3F satellites, which are the next generation of GPS 3. Brown stated during a discussion panel at the Air Force Association’s aerospace warfare virtual symposium that the revamped bus will be on the third satellite of the GPS 3F line.
Brigadier General Steve Whitney, director in charge of space programs for the Department of the Air Force, moderated the debate. On-orbit maintenance is an innovative field in the space sector, according to Whitney, who formerly managed the GPS system at the Space and Missile Systems Center. DoD satellites can take advantage of it. According to Brown, developments in on-orbit logistics, as well as servicing, are leading the industry to explore new approaches to satellite architecture.
“We will be able to permit on-orbit docking, which will enable us to make on-orbit improvements for things like introducing in a modern processor, introducing in new sensor technology, and other things that enable us to improve the relevance and mission capacity of the space platform,” he added.
The LM2100 is a broad platform that can support satellites weighing between 2,300 and 6,500 kilograms. Lockheed Martin is already working on this update for some time, according to Brown. Concerns that satellite improvements in space have been perceived as “a very dangerous proposition,” and there are new innovations to make it easier with much less risk were one of the motivators.
On the panel, Joseph Cassady, who serves as the executive director in charge of space at the Aerojet Rocketdyne, addressed the company’s role in in-space logistics. According to Brown, Lockheed Martin intends to collaborate with Aerojet Rocketdyne in this region. “When we speak about the sophistication of things such as rendezvous as well as proximity activities, as a sector, we have a lot of capacity around, and definitely Aerojet Rocketdyne is a huge business looking at stuff like that,” Brown added. Lockheed Martin declared its intention to buy Aerojet Rocketdyne in December. “Given the developments we’ve had in the last few months, Lockheed Martin aims to collaborate with Aerojet Rocketdyne as a member of the group going forward,” Brown stated.