Typically when a satellite needs to be upgraded, it’s simply replaced with a new satellite. Lockheed Martin is looking to change that and is redesigning the bus used for GPS satellites so they can be or upgraded with new hardware while in orbit. Word of the satellite changes came from a Lockheed Martin executive earlier this week.
Eric Brown, Senior Director of military space mission strategy for Lockheed Martin, said the new design is a significant change compared to conventional thinking. With conventional thinking, once something is in orbit, “you were done with it,” according to Brown. He says now the thinking is in-space servicing, and logistics will become available in the years ahead.
Lockheed is redesigning the LM2100 commercial bus that will be used in a future version of GPS 3 satellites known as GPS 3F. Lockheed currently expects the third satellite in the GPS 3F line to have the new and upgraded bus. Both the US Air Force and Lockheed Martin are clear that on-orbit servicing of satellites is an emerging technology in the space industry, and the DOD should take advantage of it for its satellite fleet.
Innovations for on-orbit logistics and servicing are pushing the satellite building industry to think of new ways to design satellites. There will be a capability to enable on-orbit docking allowing on-orbit upgrades for bringing in new processor and sensor technologies and other tech.
By upgrading satellites to be serviceable while on-orbit, the lifespan and usefulness of the satellites can be expanded, and money can be saved. The LM2100 is a large platform used for larger satellites in the area of 2300 to 6500 kilograms. Lockheed Martin also confirmed that it will work with Aerojet Rocketdyne on in-space logistics.