On the Deliberate Track

The Air Force’s choice either of Boeing or Lockheed Martin to build the transformational satellite communications system spacecraft will come “no earlier than the middle of December,” USAF’s point man for space programs said Sept. 25. Part of the reason that the decision is not expected before then is that the Air Force is being “as thorough as possible” in its evaluation of the bids, said Gary Payton, deputy under secretary of the Air Force for space programs. “We don’t want to be cavalier about selecting winners and losers,” he said at a Space Foundation-sponsored media event. Indeed, he said, the Air Force wants a rock-solid case for why it picked the winner in the event that the losing bidder opts to challenge the decision. Admittedly, this approach “has taken more time,” Payton said. The Air Force also has asked the office of Pentagon weapons buyer John Young to conduct an independent scrub of the service’s work thus far, he said. Earlier this week, Young was quoted in the press as being unhappy with the Air Force’s inability to choose the winner sooner. Payton said some of Young’s frustration may be based on the fact that the budget for TSAT is still in flux as the Air Force solidifies its Fiscal 2010 request. The Air Force is making changes to TSAT funding based on the findings of a joint USAF-OSD study last year that were not available in time for the Fiscal 2009 budget, which reflected hefty cutbacks for TSAT. Payton also said that during this period the Air Force and industry have been making “significant technical progress” in reducing risk to critical facets of the TSAT space segment, such as the tiny computer processors that must be able to withstand high doses of radiation on-orbit.