Northrop Grumman has been awarded a $235 million contract by the U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command for the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next Gen OPIR) polar satellites 1 and 2. This contract brings the total value awarded to Northrop Grumman for the project to over $2.1 billion. The work is expected to be completed by July 25, 2026, and will take place in Redondo Beach, California.
This is not the first contract that Northrop Grumman has received for the Next Gen OPIR polar satellites. In 2020, they were awarded a contract worth up to $2.37 billion. The Space Force’s fiscal 2024 budget has removed funding for one of the three planned geosynchronous orbit (GEO) Next Gen OPIR missile warning satellites by Lockheed Martin. Instead, the Space Force believes that having a band of smaller satellites in lower orbits will make it more difficult for adversaries to target them and improve deterrence against missile attacks.
The fiscal 2024 request for the Next Gen OPIR GEO satellites is around $720 million, a reduction of over $975 million from last year’s appropriation. On the other hand, the fiscal 2024 request for Next Gen OPIR Polar is about $1 billion. The House has approved the elimination of the third Next Gen OPIR GEO satellite in the fiscal 2024 defense appropriations bill but wants further analysis on how this will affect DoD’s Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications mission.
In March of last year, Northrop Grumman announced its partnership with Ball Aerospace to design and develop the two polar highly elliptical orbit satellite payloads. These satellites will track ballistic and hypersonic missiles over the Northern Hemisphere. The company has stated that the broad coverage over the polar region offers the highest probability of spotting potential missile launches. The Next Gen OPIR Polar satellites can identify the infrared heat signatures of incoming threats and transmit this mission data to the ground, allowing decision-makers to make informed decisions. The communication system also has resiliency features that reduce vulnerabilities to counter-space and cyberattacks.