WASHINGTON — NASA, in consultation with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has awarded Lockheed Martin a billion-dollar weather satellite contract the company originally won last year but which was held up by a protest from a rival bidder, NOAA announced May 7.

The Geostationary-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R) contract is for two satellites with options for two more for a potential value of $1.09 billion. Slated to begin launching in 2015, the GOES-R satellites are expected to offer substantial improvements over the current-generation GOES satellites, which were built by Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems of Seal Beach, Calif.

It was Boeing that protested December’s award of the GOES-R contract to Denver-based Lockheed Martin Space Systems, arguing that its bid did not receive fair consideration by NASA, which buys weather satellites on behalf of NOAA. The other losing bidder was Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems of Los Angeles.

Boeing filed the protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which earlier this year asked NASA to re-evaluate the bids submitted by Boeing and Lockheed Martin. “A previous contract award was re-evaluated by NASA and, as a result of that process, a series of corrective actions were implemented,” NOAA said in a May 7 press release. “Following that re-evaluation Lockheed Martin Space Systems was selected as the contractor.”

In a statement provided by Boeing spokeswoman Angie Chen, the company said it is “disappointed that the re-evaluation of the proposals resulted in the same decision, and we will request a formal debrief before we determine what actions, if any, we will take … We will continue to support our NASA customer as we prepare for the launch of the GOES-O satellite this summer, and the future launch of GOES-P.”

NOAA typically operates two GOES satellites overlooking the East and West coasts of the U.S. mainland. The satellites monitor severe storms, atmospheric conditions and other weather phenomena for NOAA’s National Weather Service.

Warren Ferster is the Editor-in-Chief of SpaceNews and is responsible for all the news and editorial coverage in the weekly newspaper, the spacenews.com Web site and variety of specialty publications such as show dailies. He manages a staff of seven reporters...