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T-Sat Requirements, Costs Drop; Contract Moves to Late Summer

UPDATED: With comment from Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

One of the Pentagon's most important programs, the Transformational Satellite program (T-Sat), has undergone a sea change, lowering a key requirement and thus becoming a less expensive program.

The requirements gods, known as the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, yesterday approved the scaled-down requirements for T-Sat. Importantly, the projected launch date for T-Sat is unchanged at 2019.

"The requirements will be lower. The costs will be lower. It will still have a high-speed router but minimal comms-on-the-move," the senior Pentagon source said.

Technically, the change affects one key performance parameter. The JROC memo tells the Air Force to come up with the technical definition of that parameter within 30 days. That will require a change to the request for proposal and that will mean the contract for the next phase in the program will not occur until "late summer, probably August," the Pentagon source said.

Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, head of Air Force Space Command, said earlier this month that he expected the T-Sat contract to be awarded in December and most industry sources had assumed it would be awarded then.

The changes, under consideration for 10 months, were made largely because of the demise of the former Space Radar program, according to a senior Pentagon source. Much of the bandwidth that T-Sat would have provided was driven by the classified portion of Space Radar.

The other major client for T-Sat is the Army's Future Combat System, which requires so-called comms-on-the-move. T-Sat will still provide comms-on-the move but it will not be as robust.

"FCS will have to make some adjustments, but there will not be a sizable impact on FCS," the Pentagon source said.

Lockheed Martin spokesman Steve Tatum said the company has "not been officially notified of any change to the TSAT program. Our team has worked diligently with our customer on system definition and to successfully demonstrate the key technologies integral to TSAT. We are prepared to begin full scale development of this important capability to our armed forces. We have proven our technological readiness essential for introducing TSAT, including major risk reduction milestones for space based laser communication, next-generation processor/router capabilities, and a significantly enhanced satellite bus." Boeing spokeswoman Diana Ball largely echoed the Lockheed statement and referred me to the Air Force for further comment.

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