CEO Jason Kim: “You’re going to see a lot more constellation work from us”
WASHINGTON – An experimental US Space Force missile warning satellite built on a Millennium Space bus is expected to launch into geostationary orbit in 2022.
Millennium, a satellite maker owned by Boeing Co., now hopes to turn the experience gained from this project into larger contracts for space-based missile defense systems.
“Many lessons have been learned from Wide Field of View,” said Jason Kim, CEO of Millennium Space. SpaceNews.
Wide Field of View (WFOV), which carries an infrared sensor manufactured by L3Harris, has been in development since 2016 and is expected to launch on the Space Force USSF-12 mission aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.
Kim said the missile defense satellite market is expected to grow significantly as the Space Force and other DoD organizations plan a multi-orbital persistent infrared sensor (OPIR) architecture.
A former Raytheon executive, Kim became CEO of Millennium in December and is looking to expand his national security business. The company, located in El Segundo, Calif., Hopes to be selected to build a future constellation of missile tracking satellites that Space Force could deploy in medium earth orbit.
In June, the Space Force called on Millennium and Raytheon to design sensors capable of tracking hypersonic missiles from medium earth orbit (MEO). The companies have signed 18-month contracts to develop digital prototypes that the Space Force will test and evaluate as a possible addition to the U.S. missile defense network. Current missile defense satellites are found in geostationary and low ground orbits.
“We are disrupting traditional architecture by developing an MEO system,” Kim said. “MEO has not traditionally been considered an OPIR placement orbit.”
If the Space Force goes ahead with purchasing missile tracking satellites in MEO, Millennium will compete as prime contractor, Kim said. The company has been striving to move from being a bus supplier to being a prime contractor in national security satellite programs, he said.
About 80% of its satellite components are made in-house, Kim said. “We’re not just a bus supplier, but we know how to develop the spacecraft, work with payload instrument suppliers, and perform integrated testing. “
“You’re going to see a lot more constellation work from us, and you’re going to see not only national security space missions, but also commercial ISRs. [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] and commercial communication missions that end up supporting the national security space, ”he said.
Kim declined to name specific programs the company plans to participate in. “We are pursuing several restricted constellations which I cannot discuss,” he said.
Smallsats in GEO
Millennium is also looking to capture some of the military’s forecasted demand for small satellites for different applications.
In 2018, the company won a contract with the Space Force Space Enterprise Consortium to produce Tetra-1, an experimental satellite slated for launch for the USSF-44 mission aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in geostationary orbit.
Tetra-1 is the first of Millennium’s Altair satellite buses to qualify for geosynchronous orbit operations.
USSF-44 launch was scheduled for 2020 but has been delayed. He is now targeted for the fourth quarter of this year, Kim said. “We look forward to putting it into geosynchronous orbit and starting to demonstrate new techniques, tactics, procedures and concepts of operations. “
The Space Force plans to use Tetra-1 as a test platform to assess the performance of cubesats in geostationary orbit.