NOAA Finalizes JPSS-1 Contracts Totaling $655.5M

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will pay industry $655.5 million to build the second of five spacecraft the agency will use to collect weather and climate data as part of a $12.9 billion polar-orbiting satellite program scheduled to run through 2028.

The spacecraft, essentially a clone of the Suomi NPP satellite that launched in November, is called JPSS-1, after the Joint Polar Satellite System project of which it is a part. JPSS-1 is slated to launch in fall 2017 aboard a Delta 2 rocket from Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

On Aug. 13, NOAA said NASA, which is managing JPSS-1 development for NOAA, finalized contracts with four companies. In response to Space News queries, NOAA spokesman John Leslie provided the terms of the finalized JPSS-1 contracts via email Aug. 20:

  • Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, El Segundo, Calif., got $188.2 million for the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite. The contract was finalized June 19 and runs through May 2018. Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems, Garland, Texas, got a $1.4 billion JPSS Common Ground Systems contract. The agreement was finalized last July and runs through 2018.
  • Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo., got $280.4 million for the JPSS-1 spacecraft bus and $61.1 million for the Ozone Mapper Profiler Suite instrument. The spacecraft contract was finalized in October and runs through January 2013. The instrument contract was finalized last September and runs through September 2015.
  • ITT Exelis Geospatial Systems of Rochester, N.Y., got $91.1 million for the Cross-track Infrared Sounder instrument. The deal was finalized in December and runs through September 2014.
  • Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems, Rolling Meadows, Ill., got $34.7 million for the Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder instrument. The contract was finalized April 13 and runs through May 2017.

Leslie did not provide contract information for a fifth sensor flying on JPSS-1, the NASA Langley Research Center-led Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) instrument. CERES instruments are currently flying on Suomi NPP and NASA’s Aqua and Terra Earth-observing system satellites.

The $12.9 billion lifecycle cost for the JPSS program includes building and operating Suomi NPP; JPSS-1; JPSS-2, a modified JPSS-1; and two satellites known for now as Free Flier 1 and Free Flier 2. The latter two craft will host instruments slated to fly to space as part of the defunct joint civil-military polar satellite program that preceded JPSS.

Harry Cikanek, director of JPSS at NOAA, said in an Aug. 15 interview that most of the $924 million Congress appropriated for JPSS in 2012 has gone toward operating NPP and building JPSS-1. That appropriation was welcome relief to NOAA officials after a continuing resolution in 2011 that froze spending on the project at $382 million, forcing JPSS management to restructure the program.

The continuing resolution “necessarily slipped schedules,” Cikanek said.

On top of that, NOAA had to add four years of operations to the JPSS program, at a cost of about $1 billion, following the cancellation in 2012 of the Defense Weather Satellite System. NOAA was banking on this Air Force-led project  to provide a ride for instruments not originally slated to be a part of JPSS.

The Defense Weather Satellite System was created in 2010 after the civil-military National Polar-orbiting Environmental Satellite System was split into separate defense- and civilian-run systems.

“It was anticipated that there would be negotiations that could potentially lead to lower-cost accommodations of some of the instruments by partnering with” the Defense Weather Satellite System, Cikanek said. When the project was canceled, “the potential for those accommodations went away.”

Procurement of the JPSS-2 satellite is expected to get under way this year with the awarding of sole-source contracts for duplicates of the JPSS-1 instruments.

“Those would start nominally in the fall,” Cikanek said of the sole-source deals.

The JPSS-2 spacecraft bus contract, however, will be competitively awarded, he said.

“Nominally, the bus will come about, I’m going to say, on the order of six months to a year after the instruments, in terms of the contracting activity,” Cikanek said. “So we haven’t finalized the specific schedule yet for the JPSS-2 bus, but we’re in the process of doing that right now. You could definitely expect it sometime next year.”

The launch of JPSS-2 is targeted for late 2021, Cikanek said.