UPDATE 1-Pentagon budget scraps two Lockheed satellites, postpones others

Tue Mar 4, 2014 3:20pm EST

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON, March 4 (Reuters) - The Pentagon's 2015 budget request includes $7.2 billion for satellites and other space-based programs but saves $2.1 billion over the next five years by scrapping plans for two Lockheed Martin Corp communications satellites.

The fiscal 2015 budget, which would postpone other purchases and launch a new program to replace aging weather satellites, reflects recent efforts by the U.S. Air Force to develop more resilient systems to augment the large-scale satellites it has built in the past.

The two Lockheed Martin satellites are the seventh and eighth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites that Lockheed was slated to build.

The Air Force said it planned to postpone work on two Global Positioning System III satellites, also to be built by Lockheed, until after fiscal 2019, since the GPS satellites already in orbit were lasting longer than forecast.

The service said it was exploring a different approach to satellite communications and overhead infrared monitoring, with the goal of making satellite systems more flexible, responsive and cheaper, while replacing obsolete technology.

The Pentagon said the 2015 budget would start detailed design studies of the Space Based Infrared System satellite program run by Lockheed, as well as programs aimed at reducing software and hardware risks.

The budget also kicks off a new program to replace the aging Defense Meteorological Satellite program, focusing on smaller satellites and hosted payloads that are less expensive to build and launch, and would put a bigger focus on partnerships with other countries and other institutions.

"The Weather System Follow-On (WSF) will be comprised of a group of systems to provide timely, reliable, and high-quality space-based remote sensing capabilities," the Air Force said.

Details about the Air Force's acquisition plans were not immediately available, but the decision to fund a more "disaggregated" approach spells good news for companies like Harris Corp and Exelis Inc and others that have been pressing the Air Force to move in this direction.

The Pentagon's fiscal 2015 budget also resumes work on a new Space Fence, a ground-based system of radars that tracks objects in space. Raytheon Co and Lockheed had competed for a contract to build it, but the contract award had been delayed from fiscal 2013 to this year.

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