In a major setback for satellite-making operations in Southern California, a $1.1-billion contract was awarded Tuesday to Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin Corp. to build a new generation of weather satellites.
Lockheed beat out Boeing Co. and Northrop Grumman Corp. to design and build two satellites that will be used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to monitor and better predict where hurricanes and tornadoes could strike.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, December 04, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
Satellite contract: An article in Business on Wednesday about a federal contract for the next generation of weather satellites gave the program's name as Geostationary Orbiting Environmental Satellites. It is Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites.
Lockheed said much of the engineering and production work would occur at its space systems operations in Newtown, Pa.
Chicago-based Boeing would have built the satellites in El Segundo, and Northrop, based in Century City, had planned on building the satellites at its sprawling Space Park in Redondo Beach.
No local layoffs are planned as a result of the loss, but both Boeing and Northrop said winning the contract would have meant hundreds of new engineering jobs at their Southern California facilities.
The loss was particularly hard for Boeing, which has had three major setbacks related to its satellite business this year, including losing a jury trial over a disputed satellite contract and losing a multibillion-dollar contract to build GPS satellites for the Air Force.
Boeing had built the current generation of weather satellites, one of which is in service. Two others are waiting to be launched next year.
The award Tuesday to build the next-generation Geostationary Orbiting Environmental Satellites, also known as GOES-R, is expected to be one of the last big civil satellite contracts for many years.
Slated for launch in 2015, the satellites are designed to provide 50 times more weather and climate data than are available with the current generation of geostationary satellites, NOAA officials said.
Geostationary satellites orbit at the same speed as the Earth's rate of rotation and thus are able to remain over a particular spot.
"The American public will see real lifesaving benefits from this satellite system, with more timely forecasts and warnings for severe weather," said Mary Kicza, assistant administrator for the NOAA's satellite and information services.