The Future of Missile Warning

On June 21st, The Pentagon awarded a $977.5 million contract extension to Lockheed Martin Space for the Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (NG-OPIR) program, raising the total contract value to $8.2 billion. This extension supports the continued development, testing, and mission support of two geosynchronous missile-warning satellites, designed to detect and track ballistic missile launches using infrared sensors. NG-OPIR was Initially awarded in 2018, Lockheed Martin’s contract now extends to 2029 under Phase 2.1B, the recent contract modification, which includes comprehensive testing and calibration of the OPIR payload.

The NG-OPIR program was scaled back from a planned five-satellite constellation to two geosynchronous satellites. This is part of a broader strategy to diversify satellite orbits for missile warning capabilities. An example of this would be the NG-polar program with a similar mission objective. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for the GEO satellites with Raytheon providing the mission payloads. While Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems handle the NG-polar satellites’ infrared payloads. Despite progress, payload delays may push the first GEO satellite launch from 2025 to 2026.

Missile warning is essential is a world with intercontinental ballistic missiles with a nuclear payload. These missiles have a range of 3400 mi and reach an altitude of 2800 miles. Early warning of these such launches is key in combatting, defending, and responding to these such attacks. However, with mission such as this, the cyber security of these satellite is also essential.

                An adversary with the goal of launching of these attacks may take control of the satellite in order to give the United States less of a warning on an attack. On the other hand, a nonstate actor with a goal of forcing an armed conflict in a tense situation mimic the launching of an ICBM to provoke a response from the United States. All in all, the integrity of this Data coming from this satellite must be high to ensure mission success.