Still Committed

Draft versions of the solicitation for the restructured TSAT program are now circulating among industry, and the final version of the new request for proposal may be issued around April, Gary Payton, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for Space Programs, said Jan. 16. During a telecon with reporters, Payton said he thinks the Air Force is positioned to award the contract for development and production of these sophisticated communications satellites about one year from now. This work is estimated to be worth about $11 billion to industry. Boeing and Lockheed Martin have been working under Air Force sponsorship to mature critical technologies related to the satellites. But, if another company can present a serious offer, it is welcome to bid, too, he said. Payton said he’d like to see the source-selection process accelerated, but not at the expense of moving forward transparently with the bidders, or smartly, in general. Despite the changes to the program that were announced last month, essentially deferring more advanced capabilities in favor of a simpler initial spacecraft design, Payton emphasized that the Air Force remains committed to the program and is not backing away from its plan to field the satellite constellation. Indeed, he noted, TSAT is allotted the largest share of the Air Force’s military satellite communications budget in the service’s forthcoming six-year spending plan that starts with Fiscal 2010. Overall the program’s total projected lifetime cost hovers between $15 billion and $20 billion, Payton said.