Lockheed Martin is planning to use an upgraded Titan IIIB rocket to launch the first commercial communications satellites to the International Space Station.
The Titan IIIA launch vehicle, known as Titan III, will replace the older Titan IVB, which is scheduled to launch on an Atlas V rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on July 8.
The upgraded rocket will also include a new “boost vehicle” that will increase the payload to about 50 metric tons.
The new booster will be capable of a payload of about 5,500 kilograms and lift-off from the Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Lockheed Martin plans to launch two satellites from the launch pad.
The first satellite, called Terra, will be equipped with a new GPS navigation system to allow it to provide satellite tracking data to the ground for tracking purposes.
The second satellite, Terra Plus, will carry a small telecommunications payload that can transmit high-speed video and high-definition pictures.
The Terra Plus satellite is expected to launch in 2021.
Lockheed has a contract to launch a second satellite in 2021, and will test-fire a third in 2021 before making a final decision on whether to move forward with the first two missions, Lockheed Martin said.
Lockheed is working with NASA to test-fly the satellite.
The company has also received a $7.6 billion NASA contract to test the booster in 2017.
Lockheed expects to complete the initial flight tests by 2019 and deliver the first satellite to the station in 2020.
Lockheed also is working to launch additional commercial satellites from Vandenburg in 2021 using the same Atlas V booster that will launch the two new satellites.
The next launch of a Titan IV booster is scheduled for December 2021.
The cost of the Atlas V is $749 million, according to Lockheed Martin.