FAA preps satellite systems deals

The Federal Aviation Administration plans to award two contracts soon that will continue the FAA's efforts to move to satellite-based systems.

The FAA expects to release a request for proposals within the next month for a third satellite for its Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS), Dan Hanlon, WAAS program manager, said June 4 at the FAA Satellite Operational Implementation Team public forum.

The agency anticipates an award in the first quarter of 2003 and a new satellite in orbit by March 2004, Hanlon said. It will put a transponder, or "piggyback," on a commercial satellite, which typically costs about $5 million to $18 million a year, he said.

Also in the following few months, the agency plans to award a contract for the design and documentation of the Local Area Augmentation System (LAAS), said Steve Hodges, LAAS program manager.

The procurements are in step with the latest Federal Radionavigation Plan, released March 26 by the Transportation and Defense departments, which maintains the government's commitment to using satellite-based systems and supports keeping the existing ground-based systems as backup.

WAAS enhances information provided by DOD's Global Positioning System (GPS), which enables users to determine their positions anywhere in the world, and broadcasts it to receivers on aircraft. LAAS provides GPS data in and around airports.

Raytheon Co. is slated to turn over WAAS to the FAA by March 2003. The system, which currently is operational for use outside flight safety, is on track to meet that deadline despite delays in the delivery of an integrity analysis, Hanlon said.

"There's no show stopper now," he said.

The FAA needs a third satellite for two reasons, Hanlon said:

* To reduce risk to the program. Right now, about half of the coverage would go out if one satellite failed.

* To provide backup. When switching between ground stations ,the agency can lose coverage for five to 20 minutes.

With LAAS, the FAA plans to procure 10 initial production systems from one vendor, Hodges said. The contract will include five years of priced production for the agency; DOD also may buy some, he said.

Meanwhile, an effort to update a September 1999 business case for the program got under way last month. A preliminary report is due in July, with a final version expected in September 2003. PricewaterhouseCoopers is performing the work.

The FAA expects LAAS to have initial operational capability in December 2004, Hodges said.

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