DOD, NASA and NOAA award $4.5b satellite deal

A trio of agencies recently awarded a $4.5 billion contract to TRW Inc. to build a satellite system that will combine defense and environmental missions.

The National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System is a joint program of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the Defense Department and NASA.

Under a $1 billion subcontract, Raytheon Co. will develop ground systems for the project. These include the Interface Data Processing Segment and Command, Control and Communications Segment subsystems.

TRW and Raytheon bested a team of Lockheed Martin Corp. and Harris Corp. to win the contract, the NPOESS program office said. The pact runs to 2018.

IDPS will deliver massive amounts of data to civilian and military users to support forecasting, scientific research and tactical operations, Raytheon officials said. The C3S subsystem will let DOD, NASA and NOAA manage satellite mission data and allocate satellite resources.

NPOESS program director John Cunningham said Raytheon would install the ground systems in weather centers at Offut Air Force Base, Neb.; at a NOAA facility in Suitland, Md.; and at Navy bases in Monterey, Calif., and Bay St. Louis, Miss.

Data from the satellite will include 'imagery such as pictures of clouds and oceans, measuring the temperature of the Earth, all the way to looking at what the sun is doing,' Cunningham said. He said the NPOESS satellite will be about 10 feet long and 5 feet across when it is launched. It will deploy a 30-foot solar array in orbit.

Ground systems first

The new satellite system will begin replacing separate military and civilian remote-sensing systems in 2009.

But the ground systems must begin operating before the launch of the first satellite, Raytheon vice president and NPOESS program director Mike Mayder said.

That's because an earlier satellite, the NPOESS Preparatory Project, is set for launch in 2006. TRW and Raytheon have committed to supply working ground systems at two weather centers by the summer of 2005, Mayder said.

In addition, the 2009 launch of the first NPOESS satellite could be pushed ahead to 2008 if an earlier weather satellite launch fails.

Raytheon will use IBM pSeries 690 servers running software developed in-house running under IBM's AIX to handle satellite data.

One of the requirements for the satellite data processing system will be that it delivers data to users in 90 minutes or less. Mayder said Raytheon is not using a standard input/output system but a faster approach with a 'massive amount of RAM resident in cache format' that will support data flows of hundreds of gigabytes per day.

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