Northrop Grumman won a $13.3 million contract in December to refurbish the Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder engineering development unit for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s QuickSounder program. Credit: Northrop Grumman

SAN FRANCISCO – The Southwest Research Institute won a $55 million contract to supply the QuickSounder weather satellite.

Under the contract announced Oct. 23, San Antonio-based SwRI will develop the QuickSounder spacecraft, integrate it with NOAA’s Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder engineering development unit, handle transportation, launch, three years of operations and satellite decommissioning. The firm-fixed-price contract extends through until May 2029.

QuickSounder is the first element of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Near Earth Orbit Network (NEON), a new generation of polar-orbiting weather satellites.

“As a pathfinder mission, QuickSounder will support NOAA’s next generation satellite architecture for its future low Earth orbit program, which will provide mission-critical data to support NOAA’s National Weather Service and the nation’s weather industry,” according to the NOAA news release.

Rapid Refresh

In December, NOAA announced plans to launch an Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder engineering development unit refurbished by manufacturer Northrop Grumman on a commercial satellite bus for QuickSounder. Through QuickSounder, NOAA is demonstrating a way to rapidly update its weather satellite constellation.

NASA and NOAA are collaborating on NEON. NASA manages satellite development and launch. NOAA operates satellites and shares data with users around the world. In addition, NOAA provides satellite funding, technical requirements and post-launch operations. Commercial organizations design and build spacecraft and instruments.      

The QuickSounder contract was awarded under NASA’s Rapid Spacecraft Acquisition IV contract. Rapid IV contracts allow U.S. government agencies to place firm-fixed price delivery orders for spacecraft and related services.

Rapid IV contracts are designed to be “a fast and flexible means for the government to acquire spacecraft and related components equipment, and services in support of” NASA and other government agencies, the news release said.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...