NASA, NOAA award $101.7M satellite contract

In cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA has awarded Assurance Technology Corp. (ATC) a $101.7 million contract to build instruments for the next generation of NOAA weather satellites, NASA officials announced Aug. 24.

The new Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R), which is in the formulation phase, follows GOES-NO/P in a series of satellite launches that dates back to 1975. The first GOES-R launch is scheduled for 2012, according to NASA officials.

Under the contract, ATC will engineer a suite of sensors that collect data for monitoring the space environment.

The suite will assist NOAA's Space Environment Center in Boulder, Colo. The facility produces forecasts and warnings about solar and geophysical disturbances.

The ATC suite consists of three particle sensors: a magnetospheric particle sensor, a solar and galactic proton sensor, and an energetic heavy ion sensor.

The sensors will relay information about high-impact space storms and radiation environments that could be hazardous to astronauts, high-altitude aircraft, spacecraft, solar power systems, and military and civilian radio communications.

NOAA funds, operates and manages GOES, while NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center oversees the acquisition of GOES-R instruments for the agency.

Currently, ATC instruments are onboard GOES-N, the latest satellite system in the series. It launched May 24 and was built by Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems.

An ATC monitoring system in the spacecraft helps the NOAA center issue alerts and forecasts in advance of events such as solar flares and geomagnetic storms. It can measure high-energy particles, solar X-ray emissions and extreme ultraviolet radiation.

ATC's Space Instrumentation Group, formerly part of General Electric’s Panametrics division, has provided similar instrumentation for the last nine GOES satellites, according to ATC.

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