Defense department awards polar-orbit satellite contract

Posted: Sunday, August 25, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The Defense Department has awarded a contract to operate a new polar-orbiting satellite system to TRW Space and Electronics.

The announcement came late Friday and there was no word from Washington agencies about how the contract might affect operations at Gilmore Creek Tracking Station north of Fairbanks. The station tracks the nation's existing polar-orbiting, environmental sensing satellites.

Lockheed Technology Services Group operates the Gilmore Creek station under direction of a federal manager. The station employs about 60 people.

Fairbanks officials have worried that the new polar-orbiting satellite system would cut out the tracking station.

However, U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, issued a news release saying he had been told the TRW contract ''should involve more activity at the Gilmore Creek satellite tracking station.''

The new National Polar Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System will have both civilian and defense functions and is intended to save $1.6 billion over its lifetime. The Air Force, Department of Commerce and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will be the primary users.

''It will serve as a single, integrated satellite system satisfying both civil and national security requirements for space-based, remotely sensed environmental data that will significantly improve weather forecasting and climate prediction,'' according to the Defense announcement.

The new system is to be completed by 2015.

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