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Lockheed Martin aims for rapid on-orbit operations with Electronically Steerable Antenna
Lockheed Martin's latest technology demonstration is designed to showcase a unique, highly producible Electronically Steerable Antenna (ESA) on orbit.
Lockheed Martin aims for rapid on-orbit operations with Electronically Steerable Antenna
by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Nov 28, 2023

Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT), a renowned leader in the aerospace and defense sector, recently announced a significant step forward in space technology with the upcoming launch of a wideband Electronically Steerable Antenna (ESA) payload demonstrator. This initiative is a testament to Lockheed Martin's dedication to enhancing space capabilities for quick operational readiness once in orbit.

This innovative payload, featuring a unique and proprietary design, is poised to transform the calibration process of on-orbit sensors. Traditional sensors typically require months to become fully operational. However, Lockheed Martin's new ESA sensor is anticipated to undergo calibration much more swiftly. This accelerated calibration is crucial in meeting the growing needs for faster mission readiness and operational tempo in the rapidly evolving space sector.

Scheduled for launch aboard Firefly Aerospace's Alpha rocket, this payload marks an important phase in Lockheed Martin's ongoing commitment to scalable wideband ESA technology. More than just a technological demonstration, this launch represents a pivotal step towards future remote sensing architectures.

Maria Demaree, Vice President and General Manager of National Security Space at Lockheed Martin Space, stressed the increasing demands of their customers. "Our customers' mission needs and operational tempo have increased dramatically," she remarked. Demaree further explained that this technology is aimed at showing the capability of a highly producible ESA antenna that can be quickly assembled, launched, and calibrated, aligning with the requirements of 21st-century security initiatives.

The payload, dubbed Tantrum, is an output of Lockheed Martin Space's Ignite organization, which focuses on three key areas: exploratory research and development, expediting technology development, and launching new product innovations. Sonia Phares, Vice President of Ignite at Lockheed Martin Space, noted the impressive 24-month development timeline, from initial architecture to a flight-ready product, achieved through agile process implementation.

Lockheed Martin's self-financed investment in this endeavor showcases their readiness to undertake calculated risks. From the development phase to on-orbit operations, the company is focused on accelerating the deployment of new technologies in space.

Incorporating the ESA payload onto a Terran Orbital Nebula small satellite bus, the project highlights the potential of utilizing highly reliable commercial components for the rapid and scalable production of satellite technology.

Alongside Tantrum, Lockheed Martin is developing other technology demonstrator spacecraft. These include Pony Express 2, which aims to further validate mesh networking among satellites, and the Tactical Satellite, designed to demonstrate on-orbit processing, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. These demonstrators are integral to Lockheed Martin's broader strategy to showcase technological maturity and introduce new capabilities in space.

Earlier this year, Lockheed Martin successfully launched and tested its In-space Upgrade Satellite System (LM LINUSS) demonstrator, proving the viability of small satellites in enhancing and sustaining space architectures with new functionalities.

The ESA payload demonstrator's launch is slated for December on Firefly Aerospace's Alpha rocket. This follows the recent successful deployment of the U.S. Space Force's VICTUS NOX mission by Firefly's Alpha, which was executed with just 24-hours' notice in September.

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