Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. was awarded a U.S. Navy contract that could be worth as much as $500 million if the service opts to proceed with construction of a new ocean-altimetry satellite, according to an April 14 Defense Department announcement.

Boulder, Colo.-based Ball Aerospace received a $5.5 million contract from the Naval Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command to design a satellite dubbed Geosat Follow-On (GFO)-2 that will measure ocean height and thermal properties. Ball built and launched the first GFO satellite at a cost of $85 million. The satellite operated from 1998 to 2008.

The firm’s design work is expected to be completed in November, the press release said. If all options are exercised, the contract to build GFO-2 would be worth $499.6 million through 2019. The satellite would launch in January 2014 either on a commercially procured or government-provided launch vehicle, and have a six-year design life, Ball spokeswoman Roz Brown said. The radio altimeter instrument would be provided by Thales Alenia Space of France; the water vapor radiometer would be supplied by ITT Electronic Systems of Clifton, N.J.; and the GPS precision receiver would be provided by Broad Reach Engineering of Golden, Colo., Brown said.

Meanwhile, the Navy said last year it has worked out a deal with NASA and the French space agency, CNES, to use data from their two jointly operated oceanography satellites, Jason 1 and Jason 2, until GFO-2 is operational. The stopgap capability is a downgrade from what the first GFO satellite provided, but is good enough for now, the Navy said.