Leidos bests Raytheon for FAA hosted payload contract

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Updated at 5:27 p.m. Eastern with information from the FAA. 

WASHINGTON — Defense and IT company Leidos triumphed over competitor Raytheon last week in a competition to build a hosted payload for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration for honing GPS signals.

Leidos will build and manage the FAA’s GEO-7 payload on Intelsat’s Galaxy-30 satellite for $117 million. The task order covers four years of development work and 10 years of operations.

“The FAA ran a limited competition between us and Raytheon for this particular payload, and we were successful,” Marty Albanese, Leidos’ vice president of business development for transportation solutions, told SpaceNews April 6.

Intelsat General Corp., the government-focused arm of global fleet operator Intelsat, and two satellite teleports, U.S. Electrodynamics, Inc. and Knight Sky, are Leidos’ partners on the hosted payload.

Prior to GEO-7, Raytheon won awards for two hosted payloads for the FAA’s Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS). The first, GEO-5, launched attached to Eutelsat 117 West B in 2016, followed by GEO-6 last year on the SES-15 satellite.

Raytheon spokeswoman Maureen Stevens told SpaceNews the company is “evaluating our options” regarding whether or not to submit a protest of the award. “As a company, we carefully consider each situation before a decision is made to protest,” she said.

The FAA maintains the WAAS system at three payloads to ensure enhanced accuracy for flights over the continental United States and Alaska. FAA spokesman Paul Takemoto told SpaceNews GEO-5 replaces a payload on Inmarsat I4-F3, GEO-6 a payload on Intelsat’s Galaxy-15, and GEO-7 a payload on Telesat’s Anik-F1R.

The Leidos task order includes two uplink stations to connect with the WAAS system. Takemoto said the proposed sites are Brewster, Washington, where U.S. Electrodynamics, Inc. has a teleport and Napa, California where Intelsat has a teleport.

The FAA has long used hosted payloads for WAAS, hitching a ride on commercial satellites instead of building its own. The commercial satellite industry has strived for years to convince the U.S. Defense Department to use hosted payloads on commercial satellites, but with little success.

Asked why the FAA’s WAAS program was a more regular user of hosted payloads, Rory Welch, Intelsat General’s vice president of engineering and service delivery, said a high number of commercial satellites launch over the U.S., creating multiple opportunities for a hosted payload that will get a desired coverage area.

“That’s a good opportunity for FAA to get their payloads launched in a cost-effective manner and also on time,” he said. “It gives them quite a few options.”

Welch said the addition of the WAAS payload won’t disrupt the schedule for Galaxy-30. Orbital ATK is currently building the satellite on a GEOStar-2 platform for an early 2020 launch on an Ariane 5 rocket.