Hughes STX wins $148M pact

The NASA Ames Research Center last week awarded Hughes STX Corp. a $148 million contract to support the use of information technology in its vast array of research activities which range from testing new high-speed aircraft in a massive wind tunnel to searching the universe for other life forms.

Under the five-year NASA Ames Software Support contract Hughes STX a Lanham Md.-based unit of Hughes Aircraft will be responsible for meeting any requirements across the center that involve software development and maintenance engineering operations and maintenance and network services.

In some cases the work will involve projects that are specifically IT-related such as the development of computer-based air traffic management tools. In other cases Hughes will work on projects in which technology plays a supporting role such as research in astrobiology which involves the exploration of life in the universe.

Heinz Erzberger senior scientist for air traffic management at NASA Ames said the software support vendor plays a "substantive" role in the work of NASA scientists by "helping us develop complicated research algorithms and turning it into software."

While an outsider might think NASA would have researchers on hand to carry out such vital work "with the restrictions on manpower we just can't do it " Erzberger said. "We could not do our mission here without a contract like that unless we could double our civil support staff " he said.

In winning the Ames Software Support contract Hughes STX beat out a field that included the Sterling Software Inc. an incumbent on the program since 1970.

"We are extremely disappointed because we have worked for NASA for a long long time " said Phil Kiviat vice president of business development at Sterling's federal office.

Kiviat said the company has a strong track record at NASA having worked on numerous projects that have been nominated for or have received the NASA Software of the Year award. "We will go to the debriefing and find out what happened " he said.

Despite its long involvement at NASA a loss of the NASA contract "will have no material impact on the company " Kiviat said. Sterling's recent acquisition of the software division of Texas Instruments Inc. would help offset the lost business he said.

In addition to the core software work Hughes also will procure training purchasing and subcontracting services for NASA Ames NASA said.As part of its bid Hughes STX "is bringing the entire capabilities of Hughes Aircraft" to the NASA Ames program said Ashok Kaveeshwar president of Hughes STX.

The company is looking forward to working on air traffic control research in which Hughes has much experience and on such high-end projects as wind tunnel research Kaveeshwar said.

Hughes has carried out similar work at other NASA centers including Goddard Space Flight Center as well as work at the U.S. Geological Survey's Earth's Resources Observation System Sioux Falls S.D. the company said.

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