AZUSA, Calif., Aug. 6, 2007 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC), the payload integrator for the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS), the nation's next-generation missile warning system, has delivered the first SBIRS geosynchronous orbit (GEO) payload to prime contractor Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) for integration into the spacecraft and final system-level testing.

This major program milestone was achieved after an extensive thermal vacuum test program that exercised the payload in a complete "test-like-you-fly" sequence to satisfy both performance and functionality requirements.

"This delivery represents a major milestone in bringing the SBIRS GEO-1 payload nearer to launch," said Joseph J. Ensor, vice president of Space Sensors and Exploitation Systems for Northrop Grumman's Electronic Systems sector. "With the high quality of the SBIRS sensors, the promise of providing improved, timely information to the theater commander is coming closer to reality."

The GEO-1 payload consists of both a scanning sensor and a staring sensor, and other key spacecraft subsystems and electronics including a pointing and control assembly (PCA). The scanning sensor is designed for continuous observation and surveillance of traditional intercontinental ballistic missile threats. The staring sensor is designed to detect very low signature, short-burn-duration theater missiles. Together, the sensors contain nearly one million detector elements in their two focal planes.

The PCA is based on Lockheed Martin's patented reaction-less gimbal system, which allows the satellite to rapidly and repeatedly scan an area of interest for infrared activity while not interfering with the satellite's ability to simultaneously stare at another area.

During thermal vacuum testing, the GEO-1 payload demonstrated all four SBIRS mission areas: Missile Warning, Theater Missile Warning and Defense, Technical Intelligence and Battle Space Awareness. The test program exercised the payload over the full gamut of infrared backgrounds as observed from space and multiple point sources representing targets in flight. Scenes were projected into the payload apertures and processed by onboard target detection algorithms to prove complete functionality. In every performance and mission area, the GEO-1 payload surpassed compliance standards with solid positive margins, as well as stated requirements.

Full interconnected and cross-strapped redundancies were tested and demonstrated fault tolerance in accordance with specified requirements and design. The payload was tested throughout six thermal cycles, from on-orbit cold to on-orbit hot, and performed excellently.

"Delivery of this sophisticated payload is the result of the entire team's focus and dedication to providing unparalleled missile surveillance capabilities for the warfighter," said Mark Crowley, Lockheed Martin's SBIRS vice president. "We look forward to the vital spacecraft integration and test work ahead and ultimate deployment of this critical national asset."

During the integration and test phase, Lockheed Martin will demonstrate and test all interfaces, command structures, control and function of the combined payload and spacecraft. The GEO-1 satellite is scheduled for a launch during fiscal year 2009.

The Lockheed Martin team is currently under contract to deliver two GEO satellites, two payloads in highly elliptical orbit (HEO) as well as ground-based assets to receive and process the infrared data. The two HEO payloads have been delivered to the Air Force. HEO-1 is on-orbit and performing extremely well, providing insightful data to the user community with its high sensitivity.

In July 2007, the Air Force released a Request for Proposal to the Lockheed Martin/Northrop Grumman team for a GEO-3 satellite, two additional HEO payloads and an option for a GEO-4 satellite.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Sunnyvale, Calif., the SBIRS prime contractor, and Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems, Azusa, Calif., the payload subcontractor, are developing SBIRS for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles, Calif. Air Force Space Command operates the SBIRS system.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a $30 billion global defense and technology company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in information and services, electronics, aerospace and shipbuilding to government and commercial customers worldwide.

  CONTACT:  Tom Delaney 
          Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems
          (410) 993-6454
          thomas.delaney@ngc.com