U.S. Air Force to award weather sensor contract next year

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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Air Force plans to award a firm fixed-price contract next year for the primary instrument on a next-generation weather satellite it expects to launch in 2022.

In a Sept. 2 posting on the Federal Business Opportunities website, the Air Force said it plans to release a formal request for proposals by the end of 2016  for the sensor and then award contract for a Weather Satellite Follow-on microwave instrument by October 2017.

The Weather Satellite Follow-on is scheduled to replace the Air Force’s Defense Meteorological Satellite System spacecraft and will consist of a single satellite carrying instruments that would launch in 2022. A replacement satellite is notionally expected to launch in 2027.

The Air Force will rely on the satellite to fill three main data requirements: ocean-surface wind speed and direction, tropical cyclone intensity, and information on charged particles in space with the potential to affect low-orbiting satellites. The first two measurements could be taken using the same microwave payload, Air Force officials have said.  Some of that information currently comes from  the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory’s Windsat satellite, which launched in 2003 and is expected to reach the end of its life as soon as this year. A technology demonstration satellite, known as Operationally Responsive Space-6, is expected to launch next year and potentially provide some of the same data in the interim.

The instrument is expected to be compatible with the Multi-Mission Satellite Operations Center (MMSOC), a satellite control architecture designed primarily for experimental missions, which is viewed as the backbone for the Air Force’s next-generation ground control system.

According to the budget documents, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems, the Naval Research Laboratory and the NASA-funded Jet Propulsion Laboratory have done study work on the microwave instrument.

Responses are due Sept. 16.