Lockheed Martin [LMT] is looking for ways to increase the use of standard components across its catalog of satellites to help save money, according to a key executive.

Mark Valerio, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s military space business, recently said the company already uses standard propulsion and attitude control proponents. Valerio said if more standard components are used across satellite buses, he can drive down costs by “aggregating” that demand and, essentially, buying in bulk.

Lockheed Martin’s GPS III satellite. Photo: Lockheed Martin.

“You get a good break, a good cost reduction when you’re able to do that,” Valerio said recently at Lockheed Martin’s annual media day in Arlington, Va.

In addition to buying parts in bulk, Valerio said using standard components also helps Lockheed Martin reduce personnel costs. Valerio said using common components allows the company to use two or three certified principal engineers for all programs instead of one for every program.

Lockheed Martin’s drive for standard components covers its Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF), Global Positioning System (GPS) III, Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) and its Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series (GOES-R) weather satellites, Valerio said. Lockheed Martin’s engineering group breaks down all the satellites by components and subsystems, searching for commonality, according to Valerio.

“We reuse a lot of components today, but there’s still room for improvement,” Valerio said.

Valerio said 80 percent of Lockheed Martin military space platforms can be driven to be common, giving an example of a reaction wheel. Every satellite has a reaction wheel, Valerio said, and Lockheed Martin buys 90 percent of its reaction wheels from subcontractor Honeywell [HON]. Valerio said if you can tell your subcontractors in advance when you’re going to buy them, it can help drive out the costs and allow the company to look at the same subcontract management, certified principal engineer and experts.

Valerio said cooperation from customers makes a big difference when searching for cost savings because it’s usually requirements that drives less commonality.

“So if we go back to the customer and say ‘If you actually change this requirement, it could be exactly the same part number,’” Valerio said. “That is really a lot of the drive we have right now.”

Lockheed Martin said it leverages its commercial A2100 family of satellite buses for geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) commercial communications and the Navy’s Mobile User Objective Systems (MUOS), along with AEHF. Lockheed Martin Vice President of Navigation Systems Keoki Jackson said in a recent interview because the company had already set up a factory and suppliers to create A2100 components like composite core structures; propulsion subsystem and avionics designs; power subsystems; guidance, navigation and control sensors and solar arrays; it was able to bring down costs both internally and in its supply chain.

“That’s essentially the strategy we took on GPS III, to leverage the commercial design and leverage the commercial supply chain,” Jackson said. “We were able to leverage off of a substantially-developed base of products and architecture for the GPS III satellite.”

Jackson said Lockheed Martin was able to leverage avionics designs and flight software as well since it already had its existing products and experienced workforce. Jackson said the company was able to leverage avionics components like remote interface units, uplink/downlink units and power subsystem assemblies like its scalable power regulation unit. Jackson also said because Lockheed Martin’s commercial satellites and the MUOS system use the same architecture, the company used the same core software.

“That meant we weren’t inventing a lot of stuff from scratch,” Jackson said. “We were able to reuse existing products there, so it was a very smooth software development for a spacecraft program.”