Lockheed Martin lands commercial satellite order from Saudi company
A Saudi Arabian company has ordered the first pair of modernized commercial communication satellites that Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. will make in metro Denver.
The Arabsat order, finalized April 9, is the first since LMSS moved its commercial satellite division to its Jefferson County headquarters campus last year. It’s also the first order for an updated design for LMSS’ longstanding satellite body it calls the A2100.
Financial terms of the order from Arabsat and the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology were not disclosed. Commercial satellites usually cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build.
The satellites are being made to carry TV, Internet, phone and secure communication signals for Arabsat customers in the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Launch for the satellites is scheduled for 2018.
“This is a great step forward to support both Arabsat and the [Saudi] kingdom’s long-term strategy to provide consumers and commercial customers with robust communications resources,” said Mike Hamel, vice president and general manager of commercial space at Lockheed Martin. “The modernized A2100 satellite platform is ideally suited to their mission of connecting people and societies through reliable telecommunications services.”
The contract also sets up a joint venture of Lockheed Martin, KACST and a subsidiary of the Saudi Technology Investment and Development Co. to explore future joint satellite construction, as well as aerospace workforce and technology development in Saudi Arabia.
“Lockheed Martin’s proven record of developing and delivering state-of-the-art space communications capabilities will ensure the Kingdom’s critical telecommunications needs are met,” said Prince Dr. Turki bin Saud bin Mohammad Al Saud, president of KACST.
The two new satellites ordered will add to Arabsat’s existing fleet of 10 satellites providing TV, broadband and communications to millions of people around the region.
“We selected Lockheed Martin to build these satellites due to the impressive technical capabilities and proven track record of the A2100 satellite,” , said Arabsat CEO Khalid Balkheyour.
LMSS moved its commercial satellite division headquarters last year from Newtown, Pennsylvania to Jefferson County outside Denver. About 350 commercial space division employees relocated to renovated buildings on the 4,000-employee campus near the mouth of Waterton Canyon.
About 30 percent of LMSS’ commercial satellite workforce moved with the commercial division, Hamel said, which LMSS considers a success.
“That’s very, very good by most relocation standards,” he said. “It means we can depend upon having many decades worth of experience in our business line forming the core of our engineering and activities in Denver.”
The division is also hiring to add to its commercial satellite work force and getting LMSS engineers from other divisions involved.
Winning contracts from regional and national commercial satellite fleet operators around the world is key for the LMSS commercial satellite division re-establishing itself.
Military satellite construction has been a bigger line of work for LMSS in the past 10 years. Military satellite construction has been traditionally done in Jefferson County and its campus in Sunnyvale, California.
The division spent the past three years redesigning the A2100 satellite to attract more commercial business. LMSS has only recently begun selling operators on the refreshed version of the A2100, Hamel said.
During the transition, LMSS has been working on an Australian communications satellite, which is about 75 percent complete. It’s also preparing to deliver the WorldView-4 satellite it built in Sunnyvale for delivery to Longmont-based DigitalGlobe in preparation for a 2016 launch.
Only about 25 commercial satellite contracts are bid each year, globally.
“We are being very aggressive, as we re-establish our business base and leadership, about actively pursuing quite a few opportunities on a worldwide basis,” Hamel said.
Credit: This article was originally posted by Denver Business Journal writer, Greg Avery, who covers tech, telecom, aerospace, bioscience and media for the "TechFlash" blog. Phone: 303-803-9222.