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Lockheed to Upgrade Vandenberg Launch Site

October 29, 2003|From Reuters

Lockheed Martin Corp. will spend $200 million to upgrade its rocket launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base to fulfill the company's new role as lead contractor for Air Force spy satellites, a top Lockheed executive said Tuesday.

Tom Marsh, executive vice president for Lockheed Martin Space Systems, said upgrading work on the Slick 3-E launch site would begin after the Nov. 20 launch of an Atlas 2-AS rocket carrying a classified National Reconnaissance Office satellite into space.

Lockheed will extend the launch tower by about 30 feet and modify other equipment to let that site handle more modern Atlas 400 and Atlas 500 series rockets.

"We're shooting for early to mid-2005 to have the pad on line," Marsh said. The first Atlas 5 West Coast launch is set for mid- to late 2005.

Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed assumed the lead role in the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program in July, when the Air Force imposed tough sanctions against Boeing Co. for obtaining more than 25,000 Lockheed documents during bidding for $2 billion in EELV contracts. Those contracts were awarded in 1998.

Marsh said the decision to upgrade the site would put Lockheed in a stronger position to compete for more launches in late December or early January, when the Air Force plans to open bidding for 20 more launches valued at more than $2 billion.

Marsh said Lockheed would continue to launch heavy satellites only from its East Coast facility.

Last week, the Air Force gave Lockheed $560 million in contracts to launch seven satellites -- contracts Boeing initially won but lost because of the sanctions.

The Air Force also plans to award Lockheed three additional West Coast launches, probably just after the start of 2004, once negotiations are complete, Air Force officials said.

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