An industry team led by Integral Systems Inc. will develop a ground-based system for the U.S. Air Force intended to identify and locate sources of interference to U.S. military and commercial communications satellites.

Integral of Lanham, Md., bested two competitors for the Rapid Attack Identification Detection and Reporting System (RAIDRS) contract, which was awarded by the Air Force Feb. 25. The also-rans were Arrowhead Global Communications of Falls Church, Va., and Innovative Technology Systems of Colorado Springs, Colo.

The initial contract is valued at $23.8 million, but the award could be worth up to $123 million over five years, said Steven Chamberlain, Integral’s president and chief executive officer.

The initial contract calls for Integral and its team to design and build a prototype for testing. If the system works as advertised, Integral would receive authorization to manufacture 36 more units for deployment around the globe, Chamberlain said in a March 3 interview.

Integral’s system will be built around signal-interference detection software developed by the company’s SAT Corp. subsidiary of Sunnyvale, Calif.

The product, dubbed Sigmon, monitors the quality of signals being sent down by a satellite and compares that to expected signal quality , Chamberlain said. If a variance is detected, the system automatically sends alerts to the satellite’s operators , he said.

Geo-location software contributed by Integral’s subcontractors will then locate the source of the interference, Patrick Woods, Integral’s vice president of government programs, said. Other members of Integral’s team include Northrop Grumman Corp. of Los Angeles; ITT Industries of White Plains, N.Y.; satellite operator Intelsat of Washington; and Israel Aircraft Industries of Lod, Israel.

The completed system will consist of an antenna with a small rack of equipment and a computer, Chamberlain said. While the first batch of units will be located at specific sites, the system can be portable, he said.

Deployment of the first production units is scheduled for 2007, the Air Force said . Initially, RAIDRS will be able to work with communications satellites operating in the C, X and Ku frequency bands. Potential upgrades later in the program may include the ability to work with other frequencies.

While the system initially will be ground based, Air Force officials also envision more advanced capabilities that could include satellite-based sensors , Maj. Derek Cossey, operations directorate representative for the RAIDRS program at Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs, Colo., said in October.

The RAIDRS contract will contribute about $8 million to Integral’s revenues in 2005 and more in subsequent years, Chamberlain said. Air Force work continues to be a major source of growth for the company, which just a few years ago was heavily dependent on its commercial satellite business, he said.

In February, Integral reported 2004 earnings of $6.8 million on revenue of $90.3 million, and Chamberlain at the time cited RAIDRS as the company’s best chance for significant growth in 2005. Having now won the RAIDRS contract, Integral still expects the program to be its growth driver.

“There is always unexpected business, but the magnitude of the unexpected business is so small compared to this that it may be lost in the noise,” Chamberlain said March 3.