Space: December 10, 1999


The Pentagon may abandon its plans to have three companies compete to design the next generation of secure military communications satellites, and instead have all three companies build the satellites as a team effort. This would shorten the development period, save money in the development phase, and (with careful management) not cost any more in the production phase. The Pentagon is particularly interested in accelerating the program since a Milstar-2 communications satellite failed last April. Given the extended end of service lives of other satellites, there will not be enough satellites in orbit to maintain secure communications from about 2003 until the new advanced satellites are ready. The original launch date was to be 2006, but the teamed-up contractors say they could put a reduced-capability version into orbit in 2004.--Stephen V Cole


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