The U.S. Air Force has issued a July 30 deadline for its final request for proposals for the Transformational Satellite Communications System (TSAT) Military Operations System, a program that will provide the warfighter with a secure, interoperable, high-capacity global communications network.
The Military Satellite Communications Systems Wing intends to competitively award a contract for the TSAT Space Segment including the design, development, and fielding of up to five space vehicles plus one spare, along with the ground-based space vehicle command and control, and the high data-rate ground communications gateway. The contract value may reach $15 billion if all options are exercised.
Two teams - one led by Boeing and the other by Lockheed Martin with Northrup Grumman - are each working under a $514 million contract for the program's risk reduction and system definition phase, to culminate with a multi-billion dollar development contract to be awarded to one or the other by the end of 2007.
Earlier this month, Boeing announced its having demonstrated that its TSAT system can provide warfighters with rapid access to integrated voice, data and video services.
In April, the Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman team similarly completed a TSAT Space Segment design review.
TSAT is designed to provide thousands of users, primarily soldiers on the move, with with robust Internet-like communications capabilities including wideband, highly mobile, beyond line-of-sight protected communications to support network-centric operations for the future battlefield. The system represents the next step toward transitioning the U.S. Department of Defense's wideband and protected communications satellite architecture into a single network comprising multiple satellite, ground, and user segment components.
Block 1 of TSAT, which will encompass satellites one and two, will have reduced requirements for the satellites' laser communications links and internet-like processor routers.
Those requirements would subsequently be enhanced in Block 2 for the remaining three TSAT spacecraft, according to an Air Force document.
When the program was initiated in 2004, the Pentagon estimated that TSAT's total acquisition cost would run to $15.5 billion, with the first of three satellites to be launched in April 2011. But TSAT's formal cost estimate subsequently ran to nearly $16 billion, with the initial date slipping to early 2016.
In May 2006, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) criticized the Department of Defense for not meeting the program's original cost, schedule or performance goals.
Around the same time, the Department of Defense's Quadrennial Defense Review called for the TSAT program to be restructured so that the satellite network was fielded in lower-risk blocks, with improvements incorporated incrementally.
John Peterson, Boeing's TSAT Space Segment program director, said his team's been busily "making TSAT as real as it could be at this stage, and showing how the whole thing's going to work."
He explained that TSAT will provide key three missions: "A strategic mission to sustain the service currently provided by MilStar; bringing communications on the move for a lighter, more agile warfighter in global awareness [with] something akin to XM Satelite Radio to provide high data rate communication with high-resolution video; and the third mission, the support/airborne intelligence/surveillance/reconnaissance to use the platform to provide what's on the other side of the mountain."
Similarly, Lockheed Martin spokesman Stephen Tatum said "our team has demonstrated experience as the provider of the nation's most sophisticated MILSATCOM systems, including the highly successful Milstar program and the Advanced EHF system now underway," and added that "our team is eager to get started on the next development phase of the program."
Boeing's TSAT team includes Raytheon, Ball Aerospace, General Dynamics, IBM, L-3 Communications, Cisco Systems, BBN Technologies, Hughes, LGS Innovations, Harris, EMS Technologies, ICE and Alpha Informatics.
The Lockheed Martin/Northrup Grumman team chose not to disclose all of its participants, citing competitive reasons.
-- J.J. McCoy