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Northrop Grumman Completes Engineering Thermal Vacuum Testing of the SBIRS GEO-2 Payload

AZUSA, Calif., Feb. 27, 2009 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) has successfully completed thermal vacuum testing of the second geosynchronous orbit (GEO-2) payload for the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS), a key process that exercised the payload in a complete test-like-you-fly sequence to prove both performance and functionality.

This spring, the payload will be delivered to Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT), the SBIRS prime contractor and system integrator, for installation on the GEO-2 spacecraft, which will fly in geostationary orbit around the Earth. The U.S. Air Force SBIRS program is designed to provide early warning of missile launches and simultaneously support other missions including missile defense, technical intelligence and battlespace awareness.

"Successful thermal vacuum testing of this complex flight hardware is the result of a government-industry team committed to achieving operational excellence and mission success on SBIRS," said Lt. Col. Robert Bongiovi, the U.S. Air Force Commander of the SBIRS Sensors Squadron. "The upcoming payload delivery will allow the team to proceed with the critical integration and test work on another revolutionary SBIRS satellite that will deliver vastly improved surveillance capabilities for the warfighter."

During thermal vacuum testing, the payload was exercised over the full range of backgrounds, including severe infrared clutter conditions that the payload might see when observing Earth, and multiple point sources representing targets in flight. Full interconnected and cross-strapped redundancies were tested through six thermal cycles, from on-orbit cold to on-orbit hot, and in each cycle the payload performed excellently.

"Successful completion of thermal vacuum testing is a critical milestone in moving the SBIRS payload closer to operation," said Steve Toner, vice president of the SBIRS program at Northrop Grumman's Electronic Systems sector. "GEO-2 is the fourth SBIRS sensor that we will deliver, and the second GEO sensor. We're looking forward to getting them on orbit, because we know they will offer marked advantages in theater surveillance and battlespace awareness. The promise of providing actionable, timely information to the theater commander is coming closer to reality."

The GEO-2 payload, integrated by Northrop Grumman, consists of both a scanning sensor and a staring sensor. The scanning sensor is designed for continuous observation and surveillance of traditional intercontinental ballistic missile threats, and will have performance similar to the highly elliptical orbit (HEO) sensors already on orbit. The staring sensor is designed to detect very low signature, short-burn-duration theater missiles and other transient events of interest. Together, the sensors contain nearly one million detector elements in their two focal planes.

A major subsystem of the GEO payload is Lockheed Martin's Pointing and Control Assembly (PCA) that uses highly agile, precisely pointed mirrors to allow the spacecraft's optical telescopes to scan and stare at designated areas, enabling operators to modify the areas of surveillance according to national priorities.

"With a relentless focus on mission success, the team has worked extremely hard to prepare this sophisticated payload for flight," said Dan Hoffman, Lockheed Martin's director of SBIRS Payload Products. "We look forward to continuing our positive momentum on SBIRS and providing this critical capability to the warfighter."

The SBIRS team is led by the Space Based Infrared Systems Wing at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Sunnyvale, Calif., is the SBIRS prime contractor, with Northrop Grumman's Electronic Systems sector, Azusa, Calif., as the payload integrator. Air Force Space Command operates the SBIRS system.

Lockheed Martin's current SBIRS contract includes the two HEO payloads now on-orbit, two GEO satellites, as well as ground-based assets to receive and process the infrared data. The program is in the early stages of adding additional GEO spacecraft and HEO payloads to the planned constellation.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a leading global security company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in aerospace, electronics, information systems, shipbuilding and technical services to government and commercial customers worldwide.

CONTACT: Tom Delaney
Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems
(410) 993-6454
thomas.delaney@ngc.com



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