Pentagon Procurement Agenda Includes Projects Big and Small

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  Space News Business

Pentagon Procurement Agenda Includes Projects Big and Small

By JEREMY SINGER
Space News Staff Writer
posted: 27 November 2007
11:38 am ET





BOSTON





Next-generation satellite systems for communications and navigation are the big-ticket U.S. military space procurements on tap for the coming months, but a number of contracts for low-cost, quick-reaction space capabilities also are in the works, according to a senior U.S. Air Force official.



Meanwhile, an interim missile warning satellite that had been under consideration likely has fallen off the 2008 procurement agenda, said Gary Payton, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space. In spite of more delays to the next-generation Space Based Infrared System, the successful launch Nov. 10 of the last of the current series of missile warning satellites, known as the Defense Support Program, has allayed concerns about a gap in coverage, he said. The Pentagon will make a final decision on that and other issues related to the Space Based Infrared System after the Air Force briefs defense acquisition czar in late November, he said.





The two largest military space contracts anticipated in the coming weeks or months are the




Transformational Satellite




Communications System (T-Sat) and




GPS 3 navigation system. Award of those contracts had been slated for December but could push into early next year, Payton said in a Nov. 20 interview.







Both competitions pit Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., against Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems of Seal Beach, Calif.




Loren Thompson, chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute, an Arlington, Va.,




think tank, said




he has heard speculation from




inside the Defense Department that with so few major military




satellite programs expected to start in the next few years




, industrial base concerns could lead the Pentagon to ensure that each company wins one of the contracts.





Payton, however, said




industrial base concerns would not figure into the award




decisions




.





Next year




also likely will see a




modification to




Lockheed Martin’s




Advanced Extremely High Frequency (EHF) contract so the company can




buy




parts for a fourth in that series of secure communications satellites, according to Jo Adail Stephenson, a spokeswoman for the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles. The Air Force had planned to buy three Advanced EHF




satellites, which are slated to begin launching









in 2009, but Congress directed the service to buy a fourth and consider a fifth in the 2008 defense spending bill




, which was signed into law




Nov. 13.



A contract option for a fifth Advanced EHF




satellite is not planned at this time, but could be added in the future, Stephenson said.

Several contract awards




are likely next year as




part of the Pentagon’s Operationally Responsive Space effort, which is exploring ways




to make relatively low-cost space capabilities more readily available to tactical forces




.

These could include




an Air Force




contract




for a block of




rockets for launching




small satellites, Payton said




. The likeliest




contenders




are the Minotaur, a converted ICBM




offered by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., and the Falcon 1 rocket built by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. of El Segundo, Calif., but other options could




emerge for future competitions




, he said.

The Air Force also expects to




award a contract




for development of a flexible spacecraft platform that can accommodate a variety of payloads for Operationally Responsive Space-type missions, Payton said.

Contracting plans for




Operationally Responsive Space missions




are less clear at this time.




Payton said




senior U.S. military theater commanders met




Nov. 16 to discuss their needs in this area, and that




intelligence, surveillance




and reconnaissance payloads ranked at the top of most of the resulting wish lists




.

U.S. Strategic Command is reviewing and prioritizing those lists and this could lead to contract awards next year for one or more operational missions,




Payton said.



Hyperspectral
sensors, which can detect objects otherwise hidden by camouflage or foliage,




will be demonstrated aboard the TacSat-3 spacecraft, which is scheduled to launch in the spring, Payton said. If the experiment




goes well, it could lead to the purchase of a small constellation of similar satellites, he said.





Another potential 2008 contract




involves a




space-monitoring experiment that was not included in the




Air Force’s




2008 budget request, Payton said. Congress added $25 million for the effort,




intended to demonstrate




sensors that can be placed aboard




satellites to




detect nearby threats, in the 2008 defense spending bill




, he said.

The demonstration sensor could be hosted by an Operationally Responsive Space satellite




, Payton said. The sensor is different from other so-called space situational awareness sensors because its focus is on nearby objects rather than distant ones,




he said.

Looking farther out,




the Air Force plans within the next three to four years to begin routine use of secondary payload adapter rings on its Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets for




Operationally Responsive Space and other small satellites




, Payton said.