NOAA's current generation of geostationary weather satellites are not equipped with ocean color sensors. This image of a Black Sea algae bloom in July 2022 was captured by NOAA-20, the first satellite in NOAA's Joint Polar Satellite System in low-Earth orbit. Credit: NOAA Satellite Applications and Research Ocean Color Science Team

SAN FRANCISCO — BAE Systems, the former Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., won a $450 contract to develop an ocean-color instrument for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s next geostationary weather constellation.

The cost-plus-award-fee contract announced May 20 directs BAE Systems to develop two flight instruments to analyze ocean color for the Geostationary Extended Operations, or GeoXO, program. BAE Systems will support 10 years of in-orbit operations and five years of in-orbit storage for each GeoXO Ocean Color Instrument, or OCX. The contract includes options for additional flight instruments.

GeoXO, the follow-on to the ongoing Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites – R Series program, is NOAA’s largest procurement in history. The $19.6 billion budget approved last year covers six satellites, operations and support extending to 2052.

Coastal Waters and Great Lakes

With OCX observations, NOAA will monitor U.S. coastal waters, the Great Lakes and the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, observing biology, chemistry, productivity, ecosystem change, water quality, seafood safety and hazards like harmful algal blooms. OCX is expected to delivery updated information “at least every three hours,” providing “a more frequent and comprehensive view of ocean and coastal conditions than is currently available,” according to the news release.

The OCX instrument is designed to supply information on ocean and coastal ecosystem changes to forecasters, marine resource managers, fisheries, health departments, water treatment managers, and the commerce, recreation and tourism industries. 

Under the OCX contract, BAE Systems will design, analyze, develop, fabricate, integrate, test, verify and evaluate the new ocean color instrument. In addition, BAE Systems will support the launch, supply and maintain the ground support equipment, and aide mission operations at the NOAA Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Maryland.

NASA-NOAA Partnership

NOAA and NASA are working together to establish the GeoXO program. NOAA funds and manages the program, operations and data products.

NASA and commercial partners develop and build the instruments and spacecraft and launch the satellites. NASA selected BAE Systems to build OCX for NOAA.

BAE Systems also is developing the GeoXO air quality sensor under a $365 million contract announced May 1.

The GeoXO Imager is being developed by L3Harris Technologies under a $765.5 million contract announced in March.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...