Contract Is Worth $1.09 Billion; Eventual Billions More At Stake

Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] will build two GOES-R weather and Earth-scanning satellites after all, meaning that the work won’t go to rival bidder The Boeing Co. [BA]. NOAA and NASA have reviewed the situation and opted again for Lockheed.

Eventually, up to four satellites worth billions of dollars could be the ultimate prize.

The contract was awarded to Lockheed in December, but Boeing protested to the GAO, and a stop work order was imposed while the protest was pending. A NASA and NOAA review again resulted in choosing Lockheed.

Boeing until now has built the GOES, or geostationary orbiting satellite series.

After the initial award to Lockheed, Boeing said it learned little in a post-bidding debriefing by government aides, and still thought its bid was superior.

The announcement that Lockheed will build the GOES-R satellites was a further setback for Boeing, which was pounded repeatedly in the just-released Department of Defense budget plan by President Obama for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2010. (Please see Space & Missile Defense Report, Thursday, May 7, 2009.)

There will be no purchase of further Airborne Laser missile defense planes, no further interceptors for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, a bare $51 million for the European Missile Defense system, cancellation of the Combat Search and Rescue Helicopter program, cancellation of all the vehicles in the gigantic Army Future Combat Systems program, no chance of winning the Transformational Satellite contract now that the program is canceled, and only a chance of winning the Air Force aerial refueling tanker aircraft contract that Boeing initially had won years ago.

A previous GOES-R contract award was re-evaluated by NASA and, as a result of that process, a series of corrective actions were implemented. Following that re-evaluation Lockheed Martin Space Systems was selected as the contractor. The basic contract is for two satellites with options for two additional satellites. The total estimated value of the basic contract, including the options, is $1.09 billion. Officials said a separate contract to build the GOES-R ground system will be announced later this year.

Another contractor in the original GOES-R bidding contest, Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC], didn’t protest to the GAO.

The GOES-R satellite series, poised to begin launching in 2015, will double the clarity of today’s satellite imagery and provide more than 20 times the information.

“GOES-R will be a dramatic improvement compared to what we’re using today — both in terms of better imagery and better data these satellites will offer,” said Jane Lubchenco, PhD, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “The American public will see real, life-saving benefits from this advanced satellite system that will give forecasters better and more detailed information.”

GOES-R will improve the monitoring of sea-surface temperatures and provide more data to NOAA’s hurricane forecasters, giving them sharper images of storms every 30 seconds, instead of every 7.5 minutes which the current geostationary satellites provide.

“The GOES-R program is well positioned for success and is being managed through a strong, productive partnership with NASA,” said Mary Kizca, assistant administrator for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service.

George Morrow, director of Flight Project for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said: “NASA Goddard is excited to be NOAA’s partner in this next generation GOES development. We look forward to delivering an outstanding observatory for their operational use.”

GOES-R will feature the first-ever, space-based detection system for lightning activity over land and water. The new satellites also are expected to bring other key benefits, including data that will improve warnings for heat stress and bolster forecasts for unhealthy air quality, and advanced solar-monitoring instruments for space weather forecasts and warnings of solar storms.

NOAA funds, manages and will operate the GOES-R program. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center oversees the acquisition of the GOES-R spacecraft and instruments for NOAA.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages coastal and marine resources.