The commercial launch arm of defence giant Lockheed Martin is hoping to start marketing a compressed 12 month launch campaign for missions on its Atlas vehicle from the summer. Steve Skladanek, president of Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services, told SatelliteFinance that it had already managed to compress the schedule for an Atlas launch from two years to 16 months and that there was demand for a shorter call-up.
The commercial launch arm of defence giant Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) is hoping to start marketing a compressed 12 month launch campaign for missions on its Atlas vehicle from the summer.
Steve Skladanek (pictured), president of Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services (LMCLS), said that it had already managed to compress the schedule for an Atlas launch from two years to 16 months and that there was demand for a shorter call-up.
“We recognise that before we stood up ULA, when Lockheed Martin was running the Atlas programme, we actually had two different launch campaigns. One was for the commercial customer and one was for the government,” Skladanek told SatelliteFinance in an interview at Satellite 2016.
“The commercial campaign was nominally 12 months, so we’re trying to get back to that kind of responsiveness for the commercial customer. We’re finding customers are interested in that sort of flexibility.”
He also noted that LMCLS has some very near term launch slots available in its manifest at the end of this year and early in 2017. With SpaceX and Arianespace’s manifests full until early next year, Skladanek said his firm is making its newfound availability known to potential customers.
The main selling point of Atlas is the reliability, but Skladanek acknowledged the pricing pressures LMCLS faces in an increasingly competitive launch sector and said they were trying to get that down.
However, he was clear that dependability was the unique selling point of Atlas. He pointed to last year’s launch of Morelos-3 for MexSat, who were happy to pay more for an accurate placement following a total loss of its Centenario bird in a Proton failure last May.
LMCLS’s next launch is the WorldView-4 satellite for DigitalGlobe scheduled for September, and then the EchoStar XIX communications bird in mid-November. The latter was announced at the start of August last year, and will represent a 16 month integration – Skladanek said LMCLS had been working on aspects of a more compressed schedule in the preparation.
Skladanek also commented on the current stasis at the US Ex-Im Bank, which is currently unable to back US$10m-plus transactions due to a lack of board members, with a US Senator holding up the appointment of Mark McWatters to the export credit agency’s board.
LMCLS’s president said Ex-Im being out of action had not prevented it sealing any launch contracts per se, but the ECA was useful in helping customers work through financing deals.
“I wouldn’t say that it has prevented any deals, but it certainly has been a challenge not having them there,” Skladanek said.