Announced on March 23rd, NASA awarded Orbital ATK a USD$253 million contract to build a U.S. civilian polar-orbiting weather satellite. They expect to allocate another $240 million for the construction of two additional satellites in the near future. This Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS)-2 is expected to be built by July 31, 2021 and launched seven years later on July 31, 2028. Several variations of the JPSS is still being discussed. The $130 million JPSS-3 will launch in 2024, while the JPSS-4 is only worth $87 million and has an expected launch date of 2026. In general, the JPSS has the functionality to record and provide global weather coverage. This can be essential in preparing for natural disasters and harsh weather conditions, thus, saving lives, money, and resources.
This deal was considered an upset win for Orbital ATK against Ball Aerospace. The incumbent Ball Aerospace was awarded the contract for manufacturing the JPSS-1, which has a planned launch for 2017. The Suomi National Polar-Orbiting Partnership was another previous deal between Ball Aerospace and NASA. Launched in 2011, the Suomi was used as a test run but then put into operation for weather coverage. However, technologies of both the JPSS-1 and Suomi NPP were combined to form Orbital’s JPSS. Northrop Grumman’s microwave sounder, Exelis Geospatial System’s infrared sounds, Raytheon’s imager radiometer, and Ball Aerospace’s ozone mapping are some of the many advanced technologies that will be incorporated on the new JPSS.
Founded in 2015 and headed in Dulles, Virginia, Orbital ATK is a new and emerging aerospace and defense company. This was made possible through a merger between Orbital Sciences Corporation and Alliant Techsystems. The company is separated and organized into three main groups: Flight Systems, Defense Systems, and Space Systems. This NASA order will be a stepping stone for a young company to grow and flourish.
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