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The US Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) has awarded Lockheed Martin a $240 million (€214 million) contract to develop a prototype payload for its new Protected Tactical Satcom (PTS) system, the company announced on 10 March.

PTS is a next-generation capability connecting troops with more agile and jam-resistant satcom. The complete system will deploy a constellation of dedicated geostationary satellites, commercially hosted payloads and coalition partner satellites, integrated through a ground control network, to provide US and coalition forces protected communications in a data-hungry battlespace.

SMC’s acquisition begins with a rapid prototyping phase for a new mission payload hosting the Protected Tactical Waveform (PTW). The fully-processed payloads will ensure adaptive, anti-jamming communications channels are available to allied forces in a contested environment. SMC is leveraging Other Transaction Authority contracting mechanisms to provide for agile development.

Teaming with non-traditional hardware and software developers has enabled the Lockheed Martin team to leapfrog communications payload capabilities,” commented Erik Daehler, Director of Strategic Communications Architectures. “We are able to ‘Go Fast,’ both in technology deployment and contracting structure, due to the nature of the OTA acquisition. Our partnership with the Space Enterprise Consortium (SpEC) has made these non-traditional acquisitions possible.”

Lockheed Martin understands how important protected communications are to our tactical warfighters deployed downrange. We also know that our satcom systems have to evolve to stay ahead of the threats, because a space system that can’t survive Day 1 of a conflict can’t achieve the mission,” added Mike Cacheiro, Vice President for Protected Military Satcom. “Having delivered the nation’s essential satellite communications systems, we are uniquely positioned to partner with the US Space Force to develop the next generation’s innovative, resilient and modular protected tactical satcom architecture.”

Lockheed Martin launched the first commercial protected communications payload on Hellas Sat-4/SaudiGeoSat-1 (HS-4/SGS-1) in 2019, featuring the most advanced digital signal processor and protected communications algorithms available. These technologies, along with mission expertise and a partnership with the Space Force, will dramatically accelerate the rollout PTS to font-line troops.

PTS continues the company’s legacy of developing resilient protected communications for the military, including both the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) and the MILSTAR systems. In 2015, the Air Force awarded the company a contract for Combined Orbital Operations Logistics Sustainment (COOLS), which cost-effectively consolidated sustainment of the AEHF, MILSTAR and DSCS III constellations into one ground system. In 2019, the COOL\R contract extended that sustainment, emphasising additional resilience, cyber and mission-planning enhancements.

Lockheed Martin will develop a prototype protected tactical satcom payload for the US Space Force. (Image via Lockheed Martin)

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