UPDATED April 15, 2:12 a.m. EDT

Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. will study a microwave sensor for a low-cost mission to monitor soil moisture and ocean-surface winds under a contract with the U.S. Air Force, the Boulder, Colo., company announced April 12.

The sensor would be based on the Global Precipitation Microwave Imager that Ball recently delivered to NASA for the U.S.-Japanese Global Precipitation Measurement mission, which is slated to launch in June 2014. It would be designed to fit on a relatively small spacecraft, the company said.

The contract is one of several studies the Air Force has awarded in support of its Weather Satellite Follow-On activity. Those awards have ranged in value from $1 million to $13 million.

Roz Brown, a spokeswoman for Ball Aerospace, said her company’s one-year contract is valued at up to $6 million.

Dan Leone is the NASA reporter for SpaceNews, where he also covers other civilian-run U.S. government space programs and a growing number of entrepreneurial space companies. He joined SpaceNews in 2011.Dan earned a bachelor's degree in public communications...