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Contact: Mary Hardin

March 6, 1997


      Four industry teams have been selected to study potential partnering arrangements to implement LightSAR, a proposed new Earth-imaging satellite system that would use advanced technologies to reduce the cost and enhance the quality of radar- based information for scientific research, commercial remote- sensing and emergency management applications.

      LightSAR`s synthetic aperture radar measurements would provide high-resolution images on a nearly continuous basis, giving the project considerable capability to map changes in land cover, generate topographic maps and provide long-term mapping of natural hazards such as earthquakes, floods and volcanoes.

      "With LightSAR we are attempting an innovative teaming arrangement between government and industry to develop a mission that meets both NASA's science objectives and industry's commercial objectives," said Dr. Steven Bard, LightSAR pre- project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA. "This unique teaming approach includes having industry share in the cost of the mission, beginning with these studies."

      "We are looking forward to working with the industry teams in these studies, to define possible design and implementation approaches, and to gain a better understanding of the potential commercial market for LightSAR data products and services," Bard said. "This knowledge will help the industry teams maximize the private sector investment in LightSAR."

      Potential commercial applications of LightSAR data include mapping and cartography, crop monitoring and health assessment, forestry management, resource exploration and environmental monitoring, including oil spills and coastal zone monitoring.

      "The results of these studies, especially as they relate to proposed teaming and cost-sharing arrangements for the follow-on phases, will help establish an appropriate implementation approach, should NASA decide to proceed further with a LightSAR mission," said William Townsend, acting associate administrator for NASA's Office of Mission to Planet Earth, Washington, D.C.

      Results of the studies, valued at $700,000 each, are due in November 1997. Members of the four selected study teams, each headed by a prime contractor, are:

      -- DBA Systems Inc., Melbourne, FL (prime), and CTA Space Systems of McLean, VA.

      -- Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, CO (prime); Space Imaging EOSAT, Lanham, MD; Autometric Inc., Alexandria, VA; Earth Satellite Corp., Rockville, MD; ERDAS Inc., Atlanta, GA; Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM), Ann Arbor; Observera Inc., Alexandria, VA; Pacific Meridian Resources, Portland, OR; User Systems, Inc., Chesapeake Beach, MD; University of Michigan Radiation Laboratory, Ann Arbor, MI; and Lockheed Martin Tactical Defense Systems, Phoenix, AZ.

      -- Research & Development Laboratories (RDL), Culver City, CA (prime); Spectrum Astro, Gilbert, AZ; Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM), Ann Arbor; Harris Corp., Melbourne, FL; Alenia Spazio, Rome, Italy; and Georgia Tech Research Institute, Atlanta.

      -- Vexcel Corp., Boulder, CO (prime); Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, CO; EarthWatch, Inc., Longmont, CO; SpaceTec, Hampton, VA; and South Dakota Space Technology Group, Rapid City. Affiliate members include ERDAS Inc., Atlanta, GA; University of Michigan Radiation Laboratory, Ann Arbor; Bechtel, San Francisco, CA; Dynamics Technology Inc., Torrence, CA; Cargill, Minnetonka, MN; Georgia-Pacific Corp., Atlanta; and CAL- FED Bay-Delta Program, Sacramento, CA.

      NASA's Stennis Space Center Commercial Remote Sensing Program (CRSP), Stennis, MS, is managing the commercial applications development effort for the LightSAR project, and will assist the industry teams in conducting pilot applications projects during the course of these studies.

      JPL is managing the pre-project development of the LightSAR mission for the Office of Mission to Planet Earth, which leads a long-term, coordinated research enterprise designed to study the Earth as a global environmental system. The goal of Mission to Planet Earth is to develop a better scientific understanding of the planet's natural environmental changes and to distinguish between natural and human-made changes and impacts.

2/28/97 MAH