Lockheed wins Australia’s biggest ever space contract, worth estimated $4B AUD.

Photo: This Lockheed satellite station near Armadale, NSW, is used for tracking, telemetry and control for a range of customers.

By Colin Clark

The Australian government announced late Monday that Lockheed Martin has won Australia’s largest-ever defence space contract to build a satellite and ground station architecture for a program known as JP 9102.

The previous government had planned to downselect from five to two companies at this stage. Still, the Defence Department here, in an unusual move, announced that Lockheed had been directly awarded the contract for what is expected to be a $4 billion AUD commitment to Australia’s first sovereign military satellite program.

“Currently across Defence, there is up to 89 capabilities which depend on satellite communications,” the head of Australia’s air defence and space systems division, Air Vice-Marshal David Scheul, said in the statement announcing the award. “Once delivered, the new system will increase the resilience, agility and flexibility of Defence’s military satellite capability.”

The Department of Defense release said the new system will include:

  • New Defence Department controlled and operated geo-stationary communications satellites
  • Multiple ground stations across Australia
  • Integrated Satellite Communications Management System
  • Two new satellite communications operations centres.

The last point is particularly notable, as until today, it had not been clear if ground systems would be included in the final contract.

The Australian Defence Force does have other defence satellite communication options today, but they are not robust. It owns a communications payload aboard an Optus C-1 satellite, which it is nearing the end of its projected operational life; the military also bought access to 20 channels on Intelsat IS-22, a deal that runs out in 2024. (It does have access to the Boeing-built WGS defence constellation, having paid to build one of the satellites, but getting access to the constellation in a timely manner has been problematic.)

Lockheed has experience as the prime for the AEHF secure satellite communications network, which the Australian Defence Force currently has access to thanks to an international agreement. Their solution has been optimized for data throughput, geographic coverage and survivability against counter-space threats.

“We are bringing to bear all of Lockheed Martin’s companywide capabilities as well as our commitment to supporting allied nations to provide an operationally proven system that meets mission needs in terms of coverage, capacity, resilience and extensibility of the constellation,” Robert Lightfoot, executive vice president for Lockheed Martin Space, said in a statement.

The American defence giant is teamed locally with a number of Australian companies for JP9102. Those include Inovor Technologies, EM Solutions, AV-Comm, Linfox, Shoal Group, Ronson Gears, Calytrix Technologies, Conscia, Clearbox Systems, DXC and Blacktree Technology to deliver ground and control segments and beyond for JP9102.

Blacktree Technology, an Australian-owned communications solutions specialist, “will primarily support the Lockheed Martin Australia narrowband MILSATCOM ground segment,” as Breaking Defense reported earlier. Meanwhile, DXC Technology, a leading global IT services company, will handle the “development of ground and control segment cybersecurity architectures, including interfaces with existing hardware and external software elements.”

Lockheed Martin has also partnered with the Victorian Government to establish the state of Victoria as the engineering and technical hub for the company’s JP9102 work. The company says that it will create more than 200 advanced space industry jobs in the state.

Airbus, Boeing Australia, Northrop Grumman Australia and Optus (best known here as a mobile phone carrier, but it also is Australia’s largest satellite operator) all were competing for the contract against Lockheed.


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One comment

  • Stephen Wynn April 30, 2023  

    One has to wonder if the people writing articles these days ever went to school or travelled anywhere in their state. Armadale is in Victoria, however there is an Armidale in NSW and more likely the location as Armidale NSW is high on the table lands and remote country town, whereas Armadale in Vic is suburban. Maybe some history and geography classes would be good to bring back to woke class rooms and lefty Universities where indoctrination, not education, is the norm. Makes one wonder what else is wrong with the report. I am going to be a woman on mother’s day so I can double up on my special days, assuming I can find out what a woman is.

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