Lockheed Martin Ventures is increasing its investment by $200 million, and much of it will be focused on the space domain
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. “Executives from Lockheed Martin and its venture capital arm will meet next week to discuss investment opportunities, many of which are likely to come from the aerospace sector,” said Lockheed Martin vice president Eric Brown.
Lockheed Martin Ventures On August 3, they announced plans to double investments in technology startups from $200 million to $400 million. Brown, who runs the company’s advanced program development for military space, said SpaceNews that “a very significant part” of the additional money in the portfolio will be invested in technologies focused on the space domain.
A number of commercial space companies in recent years have benefited from Lockheed’s venture funding, including small satellite manufacturers Terran Orbitalsmall satellite launcher ABLstart of satellite filling Orbit Fabstartup of space data relay Hedronand start of navigation Xona Space Systems.
Brown said Lockheed Martin Ventures “needs to act like a venture capital organization as far as delivering returns, but at the same time they’re looking at technologies that are going to be beneficial to the various missions that Lockheed Martin is undertaking.”
In internal discussions about various areas that are candidates for investment, “a lot of the energy has gone into future phenomena and future computing,” Brown said. Of particular interest is quantum computing for space-based applications of machine learning and artificial intelligence.
For sensors, the company is interested in non-traditional phenomena to capture data from space.
One area of focus is “how we bring together the space piece with weapons systems,” Brown said. “We’re looking at advanced processing, computing capabilities that allow you to start taking all the data that’s formed in orbit and enable other systems in other domains like the cockpit of an F-35 fighter jet or missile systems that Lockheed Martin is developing.”
On-orbit logistics is another area where Lockheed Martin is looking for opportunities. The company is already investing in Orbit Fab, but will also be interested in satellite servicing technologies to supplement what Lockheed Martin is already doing with docking technology to make satellites interoperable and easier to update in orbit.
A lot of research money goes into robotic arms for spacecraft, Brown noted. “That’s great. But if you can’t communicate with the satellite, you’re basically pulling things off and sticking them on the outside.”
In conversations with U.S. military leaders, Brown said he often tries to argue that the DoD should try to take advantage of the innovation from startups.
This does not require a major restructuring of programs, Brown said. “It’s really about having enough flexibility in the acquisition processes and adapting, even in the middle of the program, to new technologies on the ramp,” he said. In military space programs, “there’s a lot of opportunity to ramp technologies, versus waiting for the next generation.”
When you’re working with startups, “you inherently want things that aren’t as proven and that you want to take some chances on,” he said. “And the environment for government acquisition has to enable that kind of thing.”