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The Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared Gesosynchronous Earth Orbiting Satellite programme (which the US Space Force has obligingly abbreviated to NGG, since typing NGOPIGEOS repeatedly could lead to keyboard meltdown) completed its preliminary design review (PDR) on 21 May, according to the USSF Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC).

“NGG is a critical piece of our missile warning architecture that will deliver a capable, resilient and defensible missile warning system to counter determined adversaries,” explained Col Dennis Bythewood, Program Executive Officer for Space Development. “This milestone demonstrates our ability to move with deliberate speed, while maintaining the technical and programmatic rigor needed to ensure success.”

The NGG programme is developing two infrared mission payloads in a competitive, parallel development effort to mitigate schedule risks for the first NGG satellite launch in 2025. The two payload development teams – Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems (RSAS) and Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems (NGAS) with Ball Aerospace – will each design, manufacture, assemble, integrate, test and deliver one mission payload to fly on the first two of three planned NGG satellites.

As USSF pushes for rapid delivery of the first NGG satellite for launch by 2025, this key milestone demonstrates the programme is on track. Successfully completing the payload PDRs was especially important, as they constitute the critical path for the first satellite delivery.  The team plans to wrap up the system PDR campaign this fall and drive towards critical design review (CDR) in the fall of 2021.    

“These reviews demonstrated that the competing NGG mission payload contractors will provide the critical missile warning performance required for our nation to operate in a contested space environment,” added Col Daniel Walter, the Next Generation OPIR Space Segment Program Manager. “The two successful reviews were key milestones in demonstrating our readiness to move forward. Our next steps are the build and test of engineering design units, or EDUs, and procurement of critical flight hardware for the first Space Vehicle delivery in 2025 […] The mission payload EDUs will be critical enablers to demonstrate mission capabilities and exercise key integration activities that will burn down program risk before the space flight hardware is delivered.”

The NGG contract was awarded to Lockheed Martin in August 2018 for the design, development, manufacture, integration, test and delivery of three NGG space vehicles. After a competitive source selection, the company awarded subcontracts to both RSAS and NGAS/Ball for development and build of two separate mission payloads that October. The government and Lockheed Martin will determine later which of payload will be integrated on the first and second satellites. Lockheed Martin will also competitively select one of the two subcontractors to build an additional payload to fly on the third satellite.

NGG will replace the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIR), seen here during launch. (Photo: USAF/Airman 1st Class Dalton Williams)

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