Raytheon Waits While Congress, Air Force Sort Out T-Sat Funding

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Profile: Raymond L. Kolibaba, VP for Space Systems, Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems

The end of 2005 has the potential to bring great satisfaction or crushing disappointment for Ray Kolibaba and the unit of Raytheon that he runs.

In December, the U.S. Air Force is expected to select the ground-segment contractor for the Transformational Satellite Communications (T-Sat) system, which will use Internet Protocol technology to enable U.S. f orces to use bandwidth with far greater efficiency than is possible today. Raytheon is one of three companies competing for the T-Sat Mission Operations System (T-MOS) contract, which at $2.1 billion would be the biggest ever for Kolibaba’s division. Also competing for the work are Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

T-MOS represents a break with the Air Force’s traditional practice on satellite programs of combining ground- and space-segment work under a single prime contract. Kolibaba says it makes sense to procure these items separately, in part because it ensures that the ground segment is accorded the proper priority.

The big question is what happens with T-MOS if T-Sat is delayed significantly, as appears likely given Congress’ reluctance to provide the funding needed to start launching the satellites around 2013. Lawmakers are concerned that the Air Force is moving too quickly on T-Sat, increasing the chances that the program will become mired in the technical and cost-growth problems that have hit most of the service’s major space procurements.

Kolibaba discussed T-MOS and other programs and issues with Space News Deputy Editor Warren Ferster and staff writer Missy Frederick.

Given Congress’ actions so far on the 2006 budget, it appears likely that the T-Sat program will be delayed substantially. What does that mean for the T-MOS program?

Congress is fed up, and there’s good reason for them to be fed up and concerned at this point. Right now the dates are in the 2011-2013 range. With added risk reduction measures, those would slip into the future.

What case can you make for keeping the T-Sat program on schedule?

One of my issues is the use of bandwidth. During the war last year, the use of bandwidth for Iraq grew exponentially, while the number of people on the ground actually went down substantially. So the need for bandwidth gets more important as information continues to grow on a daily basis. Eighty percent of the bandwidth used in the Iraqi war was commercial, and we need to make sure we can guarantee that war fighters wherever can access information in a timely manner. Right now, I think there’s a very high reliance on the commercial providers.

About two thirds of the bandwidth used today is not effectively utilized, according to studies we have seen . Even compared to what you get on your own computer network, when you’re guaranteed access, there’s people swapping bandwidth all over the place. That’s the kind of environment we need to get to, as far as users are concerned out in field, as well as in other locations across the world.

Communications on the move is the real issue for end users. Now users sometimes have to physically stop and set up a terminal. In the end, you need a system that can make sure you have guaranteed communications with the right priorities — because there are still always going to be priorities — and you need to manage bandwidth and have the ability to get to disadvantaged users in the field.

What are some of the challenges involved with building the T-MOS system?

Part of our challenge is that the components have to be backward compatible with the existing system. You can’t just all of a sudden turn the switch and move to a T-Sat world. That’s part of why it’s transformational communications.

Because of that, we’re going to be working on our open architecture endeavors. The goal is to be transparent; the user shouldn’t care about how they get their information. They just need information when they need it so it’s timely and viable for them. Ultimately that’s what T-MOS is all about: getting guaranteed-access data to people in the field with their hand-held terminals.

What are your main arguments for procuring satellites and ground systems separately?

I have been on the ground side for 30 years, and realistically when you get a program, the major emphasis is typically on hardware, which is something people can touch, see and identify with. We’re in a situation where typically the ground is treated as a key component but not at the same priority as space hardware — it doesn’t have the glamour.

The space system can’t work without a solid, effective ground system that makes sure data gets to the right place at the right time.

I think the hesitation [at going this route] is because it’s something that hasn’t been done before. There are some arguments that you can get better integration between the ground segment and the spacecraft by procuring them together, but I don’t believe our systems can be operated in a stovepipe kind of mode. You need to be able to have interoperability across these systems. The viable place to do that is on the ground where all pieces come together.

What are some of the other big opportunities coming up for your division in the near future?

A program that is as much up in the air as T-Sat is Space Radar. If that isn’t a real program at this point in time, it may be in the future. Our assessment is that there aren’t a lot of major procurements on the space side, and that goes for the ground as well.

We contractors … have some issues dealing with credibility on the Hill with space programs. Realistically we need to show that those programs are under control before Congress is willing to spend money.

To us, there’s still some potential for growth within the Department of Defense. Even though the overall market seems to be leveling off, there are areas we can address. NASA is working with the rest of Raytheon on exactly what we can do on the interplanetary exploration side.

We also believe Raytheon can be a player now in changing the Deep Space Network.

Can Raytheon be a bigger player in the civil space arena?

Given that we are the ground contractor on the NPOESS [National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System] program, we think that there’s a logical extension for overall civil developments. The value for that program — assuming it happens, as there are going to be some funding issues there as well — is about $500 million. It’s a valuable program for us.

What is the biggest challenge associated with NPOESS?

Funding. I think we’re concerned with funding across the board, given where the budget is going. On the ground system end of things, the biggest challenge is the weather data processing algorithm, making sure the data we get down is processed appropriately to the requirements and criteria of the science community to make sure they get the data with the accuracy and timeliness they need.

What are the revenue trends for your division?

We’re part of Raytheon’s Intelligence and Information Systems segment, which generates between $2.2 and $2.3 billion. As far as our unit, over the last five years, we’ve had a year-over-year growth rate of 22.5 percent.

Are you expanding your facilities in Colorado as a result?

Last year we netted 455 people. The total number on site is 2,800. We’ve had substantial growth there. The company has committed to building a 150,000 square-foot [13,500 square-meter] building, which we will occupy at the end of November. That’s a major commitment by the company.