April 11, 2007 / 8:33 PM / 12 years ago

U.S., Israeli firms to tap need for small satellites

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (Reuters) - Northrop Grumman Corp. said on Wednesday it had teamed with Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. to pitch small surveillance satellites to the U.S. government in a deal spurred by China’s anti-satellite test in January.

China’s use of a ground-based missile to kill one of its satellites on January 11 “heightened our interest” in sealing the deal, Jeff Grant, a senior Northrop space executive, told reporters at a space-industry conference here.

The initiative involves a system weighing less than 800 pounds and targeted to cost $175 million to $200 million per satellite, including launch costs.

Designed for 24-hour surveillance in all weather conditions from a low earth orbit, it could deliver critical new capabilities to U.S. military and intelligence customers about 28 months after being ordered. It would fill gaps in larger, pricier networks.

“When they want to move quickly on any given contingency, users now have an option that offers greatly reduced timelines for deploying tactical satellites at low cost and at very low risk,” Alexis Livanos, president of Northrop’s Space Technology business unit, said in a news release.

The plan fits into the Pentagon’s post-January 11 space equation because of the satellite’s small size and quick availability, for instance to replace any satellites disrupted by a foe.

In a similar vein, Waltham, Massachusetts-based Raytheon Co. said Tuesday it was launching new efforts to address demands in the emerging U.S. “launch-on-demand- market.”

Raytheon’s drive in this area includes two mini-satellites designed for imaging. One, known as ARTEMIS, is a $14 million system delivered to the Air Force Research Laboratory only 15 months after the contract was awarded, company officials said.

“Raytheon sees this area of the space business growing quickly as asymmetric threats make the need for up-to-date, detailed information critical to the safety and success of our war fighters,” said Brian Arnold, a retired Air Force three- star general who runs many of the company’s advanced space programs.

Under the deal announced Wednesday, Northrop would modify Israel Aerospace Industries’ TECSAR satellite for secure U.S. communications and other U.S. needs at its facilities in Redondo Beach, California.

The first TECSAR satellite is scheduled for launch this summer for the Israeli defense ministry. Northrop said it planned to use the Israeli satellite to demonstrate its “rapid response” capability to potential U.S. buyers.

Northrop would have an option for co-production of the TECSAR satellite in the United States, Northrop said.

Israel Aerospace Industries, formerly known as Israel Aircraft Industries, is Israel’s largest industrial exporter.

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