Jay L. Buckley is returning to Prince George's County where he grew up and caused havoc for University of Maryland basketball teams as an All-Atlantic Coast Conference player for Duke University, to take control of a Lanham-based satellite photo service company.
Dr. Buckley, who played for the Blue Devils in the early 1960s, has been named interim president of Earth Observation Satellite Co., a joint venture of General Electric Co. and Hughes Aircraft Co.
EOSAT, as the company is commonly referred to, sells photograph images of Earth, which are transmitted from the Landsats 4 and 5 satellites orbiting more than 400 miles above the planet.
The photo images are used by government and private industry for oil and gas exploration, map-making, crop yield estimates and tracking urban sprawl. The photos also are being used for guidance in cleaning up the Persian Gulf oil spills.
"He's currently wearing two hats," William Schumann, a spokesman for General Electric in Washington, said of Dr. Buckley, who splits his time between EOSAT and GE's Astro Space division in East Windsor, N.J.
Dr. Buckley declined to discuss his new job as EOSAT's interim president.
As program general manager of Astro's Space Science and Applications program, Dr. Buckley, who received a Ph.D. in physics from Johns Hopkins University, is responsible for GE's research satellite programs. This includes the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, which is to be carried into orbit aboard a space shuttle, and the Mars Observer, which is slated for launch next year to map the Red Planet's surface.
Dr. Buckley has been with General Electric since 1977. He is expected to keep his position at EOSAT until a new president is found, according to Mr. Schumann.
EOSAT was formed in 1985 as part of the federal government's move to transfer certain operations to private industry. It has about 100 employees.
A Landsat 6 satellite is scheduled to be launched next year, said Kevin Corbley, a spokesman for EOSAT. The new satellite is expected to offer more detailed images of Earth.
Whereas the federal government currently pays the approximately $20 million-a-year operating costs of Landsat 4 and 5, when the new satellite is launched EOSAT will be responsible for the cost of transmitting its photo images. EOSAT could not estimate the cost of operating Landsat 6.
With the launch, the company will be responsible for paying for the full operation of the satellites, Mr. Corbley said. The company is counting on its continued growth to cover the additional overhead.
EOSAT's sales have been growing at an annual rate of about 20 percent and totaled about $31 million last year, Mr. Corbley said.
Overseas sales have been growing at an annual rate of about 40 percent in recent years, he said.
When EOSAT was formed five years ago, Mr. Corbley said the U.S. government accounted for about 70 percent of its business.
Today, he said, only 30 to 40 percent of its business is with the U.S. government; the rest is from private industry and foreign governments.