National Security Spacecraft

We are applying our innovative, industry-leading small- and medium-class satellite technologies to national security systems used for space missions and related technology demonstration programs. From smaller, more affordable spacecraft buses to hosted payload applications, we are helping to reshape the boundaries of global security space.

Low-Cost, Flexible and Reliable Spacecraft Platforms

Northrop Grumman's LEOStar, GEOStar and ESPAStar spacecraft platforms are low-cost, reliable and flight-proven platforms that combine flexibility with low acquisition and launch costs. Our GEOStar-1 spacecraft is a compact platform optimized for GEO missions (adaptable for MEO) for launch aboard Minotaur, Falcon and EELV launch vehicles. The EAGLE EELV secondary payload adapter experiment, under development for the U.S. Air Force, uses our ESPAStar platform and will increase launch opportunities for payloads to geosynchronous orbit.


Northrop Grumman's ESPAStar Platform provides a modular, cost-effective, and highly capable infrastructure resource for hosting technology development and operational payloads. The ESPAStar Platform uses a customized EELV Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) ring as part of its structure and is capable of being launched aboard any launch vehicle that meets the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) standard interface specification, and the Falcon 9. The ESPAStar Platform's 6 payload ports are capable of accommodating any combination of up to 6 hosted and 12 separable (fly-away) payloads (maximum 1 hosted or 2 separables per port). The payload interface at each port has been standardized, allowing for hosted and separable Payload interchangeability, late Payload integration, and manifest changes. The ESPAStar Platform leverages the available mass margin from any EELV launch to provide an affordable path to space for payloads. The Platform is optimized for GEO missions, but is adaptable for LEO and MEO missions.


Northrop Grumman's LEOStar-2 spacecraft is a compact, flexible, high performance platform for space and Earth scientific, remote sensing, and other applications. LEOStar-2 spacecraft have flown on Pegasus®, Minotaur and Delta II launch vehicles, are compatible with other U.S. and foreign launch vehicles including Falcon 9, Dnepr and Vega, and can be configured as an ESPA ride share. The platform is optimized for Low Earth Orbit missions and can be adapted to other missions (MEO, Lunar or Lagrange Points). The avionics architecture supports single-string or selective redundancy configurations. Using EEE-INST-002 level 2, level 3 or screened commercial parts LEOStar-2 is able to support 1 to 5 year on-orbit lifetimes with high reliability

Northrop Grumman's LEOStar-3 spacecraft is a high performance, versatile and expandable vehicle for space and Earth scientific, remote sensing, and commercial applications. LEOStar-3 spacecraft have flown on Pegasus®, Minotaur, Delta II and Atlas V launch vehicles, and are compatible with other launch vehicles such as Falcon 9 and Antares™. The platform is optimized for Low Earth Orbit missions and is readily adaptable to other missions (MEO, Lunar or Lagrange Points). The avionics architecture uses an open frame avionics structure with a cPCI backplane. Extensive Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) use provides re-programmability and reduces EEE parts count. The avionics are available in single-string, selectively redundant or fully redundant configurations using EEE-INST-002 level 2 or level 3 parts.


Northrop Grumman's GEOStar-1 spacecraft bus is a compact, flexible, high performance platform for a wide variety of defense and civil missions including weather, Earth observation, overhead persistent infrared (OPIR), intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), space situational awareness (SSA), position, navigation, and timing (PNT), and tactical communications. The platform is optimized for GEO missions (adaptable for MEO) for launch aboard Minotaur, Falcon, and EELV launch vehicles. The avionics architecture has been configured for single-string, selective, or full redundancy, supporting missions with durations up to eight years. GEOStar-1 can accommodate 200W payload power, which is expandable to 700 W with expanded solar arrays and additional battery modules, and 1.5 kW with increased bus size. The spacecraft can support payloads up to 150 kg. GEOStar-1's precision pointing, knowledge, and agility combined with a large delta-v capacity make it a premier spacecraft for small GEO missions.

GEOStar-2 and 3

With its flight-proven GEOStar-2 spacecraft platform, Northrop Grumman is the world's leading supplier of 1.5 - 5.5 kilowatt commercial geosynchronous (GEO) communications satellites used to provide direct-to-home TV broadcasting, cable program distribution, business data network capacity, regional mobile communications and similar services.

Northrop Grumman has extended its power and payload capabilities with its new GEOStar-3 satellites which provide up to 8.0 kW of payload power and can accommodate virtually all types of commercial communications payloads.

Northrop Grumman's GEOStar satellites are the most economical and reliable solution for the small to medium market providing a full complement of payload capabilities. With 36 satellite contracts to date, Northrop Grumman's GEOStar satellites have demonstrated benefits to established global and regional operators, as well as government and emerging new businesses for Broadcast Satellite Services (BSS), Fixed Satellite Services (FSS), broadband, and other mission critical applications.

Disaggregated Systems

Northrop Grumman has been a leading advocate of the use of disaggregated systems to lower the cost and accelerate the development and deployment of national security systems for space. By employing small platforms with single dedicated payloads, Northrop Grumman can deliver resilient capabilities to the end user in years instead of decades that recent large systems have demonstrated.

Advanced Signals and Cyber

Northrop Grumman's Advanced Signals and Cyber (ASC) team leverages a skilled applied research and development staff to provide a broad range of signal processing solutions covering applied research, software design, firmware design and prototyping. The ASC team consists of a small group of highly skilled engineers, mathematicians and computer scientists dedicated to solving some of the most challenging problems that the defense and government sectors face.

Hosted Payloads

Northrop Grumman recently completed the highly successful Commercially Hosted Infrared Payload (CHIRP) program for the U.S. Air Force. The wide field-of-view sensor was hosted on a Northrop Grumman-built commercial GEO Communications satellite. Northrop Grumman's hosted payload program takes advantage of the high frequency of commercial satellite launches and the excess resources that typically exist on a commercial communications satellite to provide frequent and low-cost access to space.

Mission Opportunities

Hosted payloads provide a novel way to serve the needs of the science, technology demonstration, and security and defense communities as well as the space-based commercial telecommunications industry. Hosted payloads can be housed on spacecraft whose primary mission does not require full use of communications payload capacity over the 15-year mission life of the commercial satellite. The satellite owner/operator works with Northrop Grumman and the hosted payload provider to make use of the available surplus spacecraft resources. By taking advantage of this excess, hosting can be done at a fraction of the cost of typical science and technology demonstration satellite missions using dedicated spacecraft.

The frequency of commercial spacecraft launches provides many opportunities for small payloads to gain access to space. Payload hosting on Northrop Grumman's GEOStar Bus is available on an almost yearly basis for future launches. This robust launch pace and the quick turnaround and strict schedule requirements of commercial spacecraft programs (typically 24-27 months) ensure efficient access to space with minimal risk of delay.

Hosted Payload Accommodation

Depending on the design of the host spacecraft, a wide variety of hosted payload configurations can be supported. The payload is mounted on the nadir-facing deck providing excellent field of view for Earth-viewing instruments and for thermal radiators. Non- Earth-staring payloads can be accommodated on the nadir deck as well by canting the boresight of the instrument at an angle. Deep-space viewing instruments may also be mounted on the zenith end of the spacecraft using a modified antenna support bracket. The payload panel structure consists of aluminum face-sheets over an aluminum honeycomb core with embedded heat pipes and conductors, providing stability and thermal control. Increased platform stability for specific missions can be achieved by using a mission-specific platform with quasi-kinematic mounts. A combination of an inertial reference unit, earth sensor assembly, and sun sensors are used to offer accurate attitude knowledge needed to meet 0.1 degree pointing accuracy or better. Downlink data rates of up to 75 Mbps can be provided (based on ground station parameters). No solid state recorder is needed because, during nominal operation, the spacecraft continually transmits data to a known location on Earth with a pre-specified minimum effective isotropic radiated potential.

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