NOAA inks weather satellite deals with defense firms

When they're not building missiles and fighter jets for the government, Lockheed Martin Corp., Boeing Co. and Northrop Grumman Corp. will be making weather forecasting a little easier.

The three large defense contractors each won $10 million, six-month contracts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the definition and risk reduction phase of the country's next-generation satellite system called the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R program (GOES-R). The awards carry a six-month option and a 10-month option for subsequent phases of the program.

Under their contracts, the three companies and their teammates will compare the performance and cost of alternative system architectures, determine system requirements and operations functions for GOES-R, and produce system and segment designs to be developed in the program's subsequent phase.

The GOES program provides continuous monitoring of meteorological conditions in the Western hemisphere. The two active GOES spacecraft operated by NOAA also track the space environment, receive and transmit search-and-rescue data and relay ground-based environmental data.

The GOES-R series satellite program is a project upgrade that will provide continuous, near real-time meteorological, oceanographic, solar and space environmental data for NOAA. Scheduled for launch in late 2012, GOES-R will offer a significant technological advancement in the quality and quantity of meteorological and environmental data. It will collect 100 times more data and scan the Earth three to five times faster than previous satellite systems.

Lockheed Martin's space systems sector will perform the work in conjunction with the company's integrated systems and solutions unit and 15 industry and academic partners.

Northrop Grumman's space and mission systems sector has joined forces with Raytheon Co. on the project.

Boeing Satellite Systems Inc.'s team includes Harris Corp., Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., Atmospheric and Environmental Research Inc. and Carr Astronautics Corp.

Roseanne Gerin is a staff writer for Government Computer News' sister publication, Washington Technology.

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