NASA spends $60 million on weather satellite technology

As tornadoes and flooding batter the nation and an active hurricane season approaches, NASA has awarded three $20 million contracts for new sensor technology that will help forecasters better predict where and when severe weather will strike. The technology, however, won't debut for eight years.

BAE Systems North America Inc. of Rockville, Md., Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo., and ITT Industries Inc. of White Plains, N.Y., each won a contract to develop the Hyperspectral Environmental Suite sensor, which will be integrated into next-generation weather satellites operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It is meant to replace sensor technology on NOAA's Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites, beginning with the launch of GOES-R in 2012.

The Hyperspectral Environmental Suite requirements were established "on a challenging mix of historical and new operational measurements," said Ghassem Asrar, NASA's associate administrator for Earth science. "The study teams have offered a ? creative set of implementation concepts needed to advance the nation's weather forecasting capabilities."

The formulation phase of the suite technology is expected to last two years. After the phase is completed, NASA said it will award a contract for delivery of the sensors.

The new sensor will integrate infrared and visible environmental data collection capabilities to augment sensor technology. It will provide wind-vector profiles surrounding the warm core of cyclones and hurricanes in order to identify the steering winds and predict the storm's direction.

With 2003 revenue of $4.4 billion, BAE Systems North America ranked No. 12 on Washington Technology's 2004 Top 100 list, which measures federal contracting revenue. ITT Industries ranked No. 26. with 2003 revenue of $5.6 billion

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