Hughes unit wins biggest-ever satellite data contract

September 30, 1992|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,Staff Writer

A unit of Hughes Aircraft Co. in Prince George's County was selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration yesterday to develop the largest satellite data collection system ever built.

The project is part of the space agency's scientific study, Mission to Planet Earth. The contract is expected to create about 500 jobs at the Hughes Information Technology Co. in Seabrook over the next decade, said Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, who chairs the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA.

Hughes' proposed cost to design, test, maintain and operate the Earth Observing System Data and Information System Core is $685 million. NASA said it expects to conclude negotiations and award a final contract to the Hughes unit in January.

This contract is expected to be the first stage of a larger pact. A NASA spokesman, Brian Dunbar, said the agency plans to spend $8 billion on both the satellites and data collection center by the end of the decade.

The Hughes-built NASA system will be housed adjacent to the Goddard Space Flight Center and will collect information from a series of satellites that will be examining Earth in the manner that space probes and artificial satellites have explored other planets.

The goal of the Earth Observing Satellites, to be launched over a 20-year period beginning in 1998, is to look at such things as how the Earth's climate is changing, along with trends and causes of these changes. The Hughes project will also collect data from satellites already in orbit. It will also seek to determine the causes of these changes, including whether they occur naturally or whether they are man-made.

Dave Shea, a spokesman for Hughes, said there will be seven data-collection stations around the country that will collect information from the satellites and feed it to the main center in Seabrook.

After collecting the data, the Seabrook center will put it in an accessible form for use by scientists around the globe.

"This is great news for America's space program and Maryland's economy," said Senator Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat. In addition to creating "hundreds of good jobs," she said, the results of the mission "will give us the information we need to preserve and protect our environment."

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