Lockheed Martin is set to launch a groundbreaking wideband Electronically Steerable Antenna (ESA) payload demonstrator. This innovative technology showcases the company’s commitment to advanced technology that enables faster mission performance once in orbit.
Unlike traditional on-orbit sensors that can take months to be fully calibrated and ready for operation, Lockheed Martin’s new ESA sensor is expected to be calibrated in a fraction of that time. This significant reduction in calibration time will greatly enhance operational efficiency.
The ESA payload demonstrator will be launched aboard Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket, marking Lockheed Martin’s continued investment in scalable wideband ESA technology development. This technology is crucial for future remote sensing architectures.
Maria Demaree, Vice President and General Manager of National Security Space at Lockheed Martin Space, emphasized the increasing mission needs and operational tempo of their customers. She stated,
“We designed this technology to showcase how a highly producible ESA antenna could be built, launched, and quickly calibrated and fielded on orbit, in support of 21st Century Security.”
The ESA payload is built on a novel and scalable design, utilizing reliable commercial parts for quick mass production. For this demonstration, it has been integrated on a Terran Orbital Nebula small satellite bus.
The payload, nicknamed Tantrum, was developed within Lockheed Martin Space’s Ignite organization. This new team focuses on exploratory research and development, accelerating technology development, and introducing new product innovations.
Sonia Phares, Vice President of Ignite at Lockheed Martin Space, highlighted the streamlined agile processes employed during the payload’s development. She stated,
“Lockheed Martin has invested its own resources and is embracing calculated risks to bring new technologies to the forefront of space faster and keep our customers ahead.”
The payload demonstrator is scheduled to launch in December on a Firefly Aerospace Alpha rocket as part of the agreement between Lockheed Martin and Firefly announced in June. This follows the successful launch of the U.S. Space Force’s VICTUS NOX responsive space mission by Firefly’s Alpha rocket in September.
In addition to the ESA payload demonstrator, Lockheed Martin is also developing other self-funded technology demonstrator spacecraft. These include Pony Express 2, which will showcase mesh networking among satellites, and the Tactical Satellite, which will demonstrate on-orbit processing and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. These on-orbit demonstrators are part of Lockheed Martin’s ongoing investment plan to showcase technology maturity and new capabilities.
Earlier this year, the company successfully launched and tested its In-space Upgrade Satellite System (LM LINUSS™) demonstrator. This demonstrated how small satellites can contribute to upgrading and sustaining space architectures with new capabilities.