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  • Satellite Evolution

Northrop Grumman completes environmental testing for next gen OPIR GEO missile warning system

The Northrop Grumman Corporation and Ball Aerospace team successfully achieved three critical milestones on production of its Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next Gen OPIR) Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) Engineering Development Unit (EDU) payload. The missile warning sensor payload is being developed for the US Space Force’s GEO missile warning satellites built by spacecraft prime contractor Lockheed Martin.

The team completed three rounds of tests in its production cycle including ambient functional testing, thermal vacuum chamber testing and acoustic testing. These tests simulate life in orbit to ensure the payload is prepared for the harsh space environment. They are building the payload with flight-quality components and have integrated the hardware and software to reduce risk, prove technology readiness and validate the digital models. Testing concluded in November 2021, at the Northrop Grumman facility in Azusa.

“Our Northrop Grumman and Ball Aerospace team is on track to deliver the flight payload of this critical national defense system in 2023,” said Bob Mehltretter, vice president, strategic force programs, Northrop Grumman. “The payload is ready to operate in a space environment under extreme temperature conditions and will meet all mission performance requirements.”

With these payload tests complete, the team is delivering on the goals and moving the program one step closer to the first GEO satellite launch in 2025.

“Testing the OPIR EDU payload is an important step to delivering a capability that is critical to the mission needs of our customers and our national security,” said Deirdre Walsh, vice president, Strategic Operations, Ball Aerospace. “The completion of this milestone by the Northrop Grumman and Ball Aerospace team is due to decades of experience with modern, agile infrared sensor development.”

Northrop Grumman’s legacy of space-based missile warning mission payload development includes the Defense Support Program (DSP) and Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) payloads and mission software that have provided a combined 60 years of critical missile warning for our warfighters and allies.

The Next Gen OPIR GEO program is a space-based missile warning constellation designed to detect and track current and emerging threats from hostile entities around the globe. It is the latest evolution of the U.S. Space Force’s missile warning satellite constellation.

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