NASA is seeking proposals from industry for design and definition studies of LightSAR, a proposed new Earth-imaging satellite 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.

The agency expects to award up to five LightSAR study contracts worth approximately $700,000 each, with selection scheduled for March 1997 and final reports due in November 1997.

"Our request for proposals is aimed at exploring innovative approaches to government and industry teaming," said Dr. Steven Bard, LightSAR pre-project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "The results of these studies are expected to enable industry to maximize the private sector investment in LightSAR. The proposers are required to share in the cost of implementing this mission, beginning with these studies."

"The results of these studies, especially as related to indications of 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.

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.

"For example, if LightSAR were operating now, we'd be able to get one image a day of the Pacific Northwest and Northern California. Since radar can penetrate clouds, this would provide emergency management agencies with a picture of the changing flood conditions over a large area, even while the storm is still happening," said Dr. Tony Freeman, LightSAR instrument manager at JPL.

Companies selected to work on LightSAR will be asked to study business and teaming approaches, prepare a market analysis, develop applications, define technical approaches and identify potential industry cost-sharing for carrying out follow-on development activities. "We are looking forward to working with industry to define this mission and determine their needs," Freeman said.

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

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