NASA and The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Laurel, Md., have entered into a five-year contract that allows the Laboratory to provide research, development and engineering support to the agency, up to a ceiling of $750 million.
The contract, which includes an option for a five-year extension, covers areas such as systems testing and evaluation, space science and engineering, information technology, and mission simulation, modeling and operations.
"This contract creates an environment in which we can quickly respond to NASA requests for support and will provide for a more seamless relationship with the agency," says Rob Strain, head of the APL Space Department.
APL is one of three government or university affiliated institutions with the capability to perform all aspects of robotic space missions, and the contract will provide a means to preserve this essential capability at APL, consistent with NASA's evolving needs. The contract does not guarantee funding; NASA can award work to the Lab through competed vehicles (such as Announcements of Opportunity) as well as non-competed, sole-source task orders.
"Our expertise in space science, planetary missions and related engineering and technology fields was developed for NASA missions, and remains valuable to the agency," says Strain. "This contract will allow NASA to draw on that expertise more efficiently as it tackles increasingly more complex missions in support of its Exploration Initiative. It will also allow us to team cooperatively with NASA centers on a variety of critical challenges."
The contract will not prompt an influx of new jobs for the Space Department, APL's second largest, where nearly 600 people work on a range of tasks for NASA and the Defense Department. Just this past year APL launched the New Horizons spacecraft to Pluto and completed the twin STEREO solar study probes, scheduled to lift off in late October. The Mercury-bound, Lab-operated MESSENGER spacecraft will fly past Venus in October and again next June, and last spring NASA selected the Lab to build a pair of spacecraft that will study Earth's radiation belts. As part of NASA's exploration strategy, APL has teamed with NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center on a robotic lunar mission.
APL also remains involved in National Security Space programs such as the First Alert and Cueing sensor and the Midcourse Space Experiment satellite, which recently marked 10 years of operation. All told, APL has built 64 spacecraft and more than 150 spacecraft instruments since creating its Space Department in 1959.