Hughes wins EROS follow-on

The U.S. Geological Survey last month awarded to Hughes STX Corp. a $100 million follow-on contract to provide technical support services for the Earth Resources Observation Systems (EROS) Data Center.

Hughes the incumbent contractor will provide software engineering systems integration applications in remote sensing and information systems development and management for the EROS Data Center (EDC) which acts as a huge storehouse for planetary data and images. EDC maintained near Sioux Falls S.D. is used by many federal agencies.

Hughes beat out numerous contractors including PRC Inc. BDM Federal Inc. Science Applications International Corp. and a team comprising Lockheed Martin Corp. Raytheon E-Systems and Mitsubishi.

"The ability to retain a strategic incumbency especially a data center outsourcing contract with growing scope in [NASA's Mission to Planet Earth] program becomes an even greater challenge when the likes of PRC BDM Loral AeroSys SAIC Johnson Controls [Inc.] and a ... trifecta are gunning for your revenue stream " said Joe Cooper president of the Federal Capture Group a procurement consulting firm in Reston Va. "This reinforces that incumbents can retain their business base but the strategy begins and is in place long before the recompete announcement."

The EROS contract was expected to be worth $50 million but the value doubled because the center will be doing additional work for NASA as the agency begins collecting data from newly launched satellites.Hughes won the initial contract for support services at EDC in 1992 replacing Johnson Controls. The original Hughes contract carried a value of $47 million over five years and saw the vendor employing close to 300 people at the South Dakota center. The workers are employed chiefly as engineers scientists software developers computer operators and digital data and photographic laboratory technicians. Only about 60 workers at the center are employed by the federal government and they are charged with the task of directing and managing the center.

That staff may increase to as many as 400 as more satellites gather information for EDC to process and as clients request more data from the center.

The work performed by Hughes likely will become more crucial next year as a series of satellites including Landsat 7 are launched and as NASA digs its heels into its Mission to Planet Earth an interagency project that will gather data to study environmental and climatic issues such as how the climate will change a year from now and what the effects will be on the agricultural community water managers commercial fishermen and urban planners.

Ideally the mission will allow such groups to predict and respond to a variety of environmental events from floods to severe winters. Already the center archives close to 12 million images gathered from air- and spacecraft.

In 1998 Hughes employees at EDC will then embark on the task of receiving processing archiving and distributing the data collected by NASA satellites. Hughes workers also will work to develop software applications technology and procedures for using the data stored at EDC.

Other federal agencies and the private sector are tapping into EROS. The Environmental Protection Agency uses EROS data to research environmental change and the U.S. Agency for International Development has used EROS information to map vegetation and predict famine in Africa.

Farmers buy EROS aerial photos of their ranches utility companies use EROS images to determine where they will route their lines and mineral exploration companies use EROS to determine where to mine said Jim Sturdevant assistant chief for operations at EDC.

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