Space Systems chief says moving headquarters will help business

Lockheed Martin Space Systems, which has suffered several high-profile project failures in recent months, will be stabilized by moving its headquarters to Colorado, said company chief Albert E. Smith.

''Having the headquarters here, I think, augurs stability for business in the Denver area for the future,'' he said on Thursday. ''I wouldn't have come to Denver if I thought we were going to be out of Denver in a couple of years.''

A week after announcing that Space Systems headquarters would move from Bethesda, Md., to suburban Denver, Smith was already setting up his office at Lockheed Martin's Deer Creek Canyon campus. But the decision to move the space headquarters to Denver was actually made last November, Smith said.

The company is going ahead with plans to sell the Deer Creek building but plans to lease it back from the buyer for at least 18 months, Smith said.

Fewer than 20 people will be arriving from Bethesda, but the decision-making powers will make Denver the hub of a $7.5 billion space operation with more than 21,000 employees in three major centers, he said.

''Part of this change was literally to get closer to performance issues,'' Smith said. ''There's a different feel about sitting across the table from program managers and getting facts straight and direct than to come out for reviews.''

Lockheed Martin last year suffered back-to-back losses of Mars spacecraft built at Waterton Canyon. The Mars Climate Orbiter burned up in the Martian atmosphere in September because of a mathematical error in the trajectory. And on Dec. 3, the Mars Polar Lander failed to communicate after entering the planet's atmosphere. A NASA committee headed by former Lockheed Martin executive Thomas Young is investigating the Polar Lander mystery.

Young also headed a committee appointed by Lockheed Martin to look into three failures of Colorado-built Titan rockets in the past two years that cost taxpayers $3 billion.

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