Artist concept of QuikScat

Spacecraft engineers on NASA's new Quick Scatterometer ocean winds-observing spacecraft have won an American Electronics Association Technical Achievement Award for development of a spacecraft at a record-setting pace of one year.

The agency's QuikScat satellite, built at Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, CO, for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, was assembled faster than any major science spacecraft has ever been constructed since the 1958 Explorer 1 spacecraft, which launched the U.S. entry into the world's race to space.

From start to finish, QuikScat was built using a new procurement system called the "Rapid Spacecraft Acquisition" process, which was instituted by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, said James E. Graf, QuikScat project manager at JPL. The new procedure accelerates the process through which NASA purchases and develops satellite systems and reaps the rewards of low-cost commercial technology from the burgeoning spacecraft industry.

"We implemented many innovative procedures to streamline the procurement process of bidding and developing a spacecraft," said Carroll Winn, QuikScat assistant project manager at JPL. "As its name implies, the QuikScat spacecraft was built very rapidly to replace critical data on ocean winds lost when the spacecraft carrying the previous spaceborne scatterometer failed. This new procurement process cut the amount of time we would have spent selecting a contract and initiating spacecraft development from about a year to 30 days."

"This was a remarkable effort to get the spacecraft built, integrated and tested in an 11-month time frame," added Chip Barnes, QuikScat spacecraft system engineer at Ball Aerospace.

QuikScat's SeaWinds instrument will measure the speeds and direction of ocean surface winds using a specialized microwave radar. The 870-kilogram (1,910-pound) spacecraft will be placed in a Sun-synchronous, 803-kilometer (497-mile) near-polar orbit. The satellite will circle Earth every 100 minutes, taking approximately 400,000 measurements over 90 percent of Earth's surface each day. The spacecraft is tentatively set for launch at 7:15 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on June 18 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA.

Winds play a major role in weather systems and directly affect the turbulent exchanges of heat, moisture and greenhouse gases between Earth's atmosphere and the ocean. They also fill a crucial part of the scientific equation in determining long-term climate change. Data from the two-year mission will greatly improve meteorologists' ability to forecast weather and understand longer-term climate change.

Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., representing the QuikScat team, will receive an award this evening at the American Electronics Association Mountain States Council's regional awards ceremony, to begin at 6 p.m. Mountain time at the Marriott Hotel- Denver West in Golden, CO. The chapter represents approximately 100 high-tech companies in Colorado and Utah. Nationally, the organization, founded in 1943, represents more than 3,000 companies, with products ranging from semiconductors and software to mainframe computers and telecommunications systems.

JPL's NSCAT/SeaWinds Program Office is responsible for SeaWinds and provides overall project management, as well as science ground processing systems and the SeaWinds instrument. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center managed development of the satellite, designed and built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.

The QuikScat mission is part of NASA's Earth Sciences Enterprise, Washington, DC, a long-term research program designed to study Earth's land, oceans, atmosphere, ice and life as a total integrated system. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA.

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