Site Visit: Lockheed Martin Corporation
Building 551
1272 Borregas Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94089

Date Visited: July 23, 1997

WTEC: A.U. Mac Rae (report author), J. Evans



Lockheed Martin is a large manufacturer of commercial, civilian government and military satellites. It is one of the principal worldwide suppliers of GEO communications satellites, with a 15% share of the market in 1996. Its present form represents a series of mergers of satellite manufacturers over the past 15 years. Lockheed Martin acquired the commercial satellite design, manufacturing and test facilities located in East Windsor, NJ from Martin Marietta, which previously purchased it from GE, which in turn acquired it from RCA Astro. This facility is being closed down, as are the GE/Martin-Marietta facilities in Valley Forge, PA. The company has consolidated these operations with the Lockheed satellite ones into two new facilities. The bus R&D and manufacturing and the satellite integration and testing operations are now performed in a large new, modern facility in Sunnyvale, CA. The communications payload and power subsystem payload R&D and manufacturing have been consolidated into a new 420,000 square foot facility in Newtown, PA. Hardware produced in Newtown is shipped to the Sunnyvale facilities for integration with the satellite bus. As a result of mergers and acquisitions the company is developing a totally vertically integrated satellite organization, through all the phases from design, manufacture, launch and through to the providing of services. It is a major supplier of launches with the acquisition of the very successful Atlas rocket program from General Dynamics and the formation of the joint venture with the Russian Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center and with RSC Energia, to launch commercial satellites on the Proton launch vehicle, which has had numerous successful commercial launches. It has also proposed Astrolink, a Ka-band data satellite constellation, which will put it into the service business. Astrolink consists of nine powerful, multi-spot beam satellites arranged in 5 GEO orbital slots with crosslinks between them. Lockheed Martin has also filed for a Q/V-band system that is similar to Astrolink, but has greater capacity due to greater amount of spectrum (3 GHz) available.

The company is participating in the mobile communications manufacturing market also with a $700 million contract from Motorola to supply 125 satellite buses for the Iridium system.


Our site visit to the Commercial Satellite Center in Sunnyvale was canceled a day before our scheduled visit due to commitments of the people who were to talk to us. Similarly, we were not able to schedule a visit to the new Communications and Power Center in Newtown, PA due to prior commitments of the people involved in the final move to this facility. Since Lockheed Martin is such a major supplier of commercial satellites, we considered it important to include them in this report. In the absence of an opportunity to hold a discussion on the topics that we had proposed, we were given a quick tour of the solar array facility and the new high bay area in Sunnyvale.

We saw advanced solar arrays in this facility. In the most advanced structure, the solar cells are mounted on a lightweight "pleated shade" like structure that folds out like an accordion on a boom. This will enable production of high power solar arrays that fit into the fairings of all launch vehicles, a major problem with the large, highly used rigid panel approach to solar arrays.

As part of our tour, we looked out from an enclosed balcony onto an impressive new high bay area that is used to integrate commercial communications satellites. I estimate that this area will hold about eight satellites and is designed to improve facility sharing, material flow and testing and the ability to handle large satellites. This is a vast improvement over the single room high bay areas approach that existed in East Windsor, NJ. We saw only one satellite in this area, the most recent satellite for Echostar.

The relatively new A2100 bus is Lockheed Martin's mainstay. The company has standardized on this bus and has shipped and launched several satellites, including GE-1, GE-2, GE-3 and Echostar, that were constructed on it. Much of the R&D is directed toward increasing the power available on the satellite and the A2100 bus, which is capable of generating 15 kW in its standard configuration. This involves work on the integration of new, higher efficiency solar cells, onto the innovative solar "pleated shades," the use of high efficiency, radiation cooled TWTAs, the design of more efficient heat pipes and fold out radiators and improved design for thermal dissipation. Company engineers make extensive use of CAD tools and claim that they can deliver a satellite that uses the A2100 bus in 18 months after receipt of the order.

Lockheed Martin is building the ACeS satellite, which will serve several Pacific Rim countries with mobile satellite service. This is a GEO satellite that will provide service to a well defined political region, rather than the entire world, minimizing many of the political negotiation problems that the LEO systems are facing. What is most interesting about the technology of this satellite is that it has a large spot beam antenna that will enable the ground terminals to work with about the same amount of power as a cellular phone. The spot beams will provide frequency re-use, enabling mobile service at a cost that is expected to be less than that of the LEO satellite constellations. Of course, this system does suffer from the round trip delay of 0.5 sec., which many people find objectionable. This is a satellite system that bears watching.


Lockheed Martin has just finished the consolidation of satellite manufacturing into its new facilities in Sunnyvale, CA and Newtown, PA. These modern facilities should position the company to deliver high quality, modern commercial satellites at competitive prices.

Published: December 1998; WTEC Hyper-Librarian