Status Report

NASA Solicitation: Meter-Class Autonomous Telescope for Orbital Debris Research

By SpaceRef Editor
September 21, 2008
Filed under ,

Synopsis – Sep 05, 2008

General Information

Solicitation Number: NNJ08263211R
Posted Date: Sep 05, 2008
FedBizOpps Posted Date: Sep 05, 2008
Original Response Date: Sep 19, 2008
Current Response Date: Sep 19, 2008
Classification Code: 66 — Instruments and laboratory equipment
NAICS Code: 333314 – Optical Instrument and Lens Manufacturing

Contracting Office Address

NASA/Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston Texas, 77058-3696, Mail Code: BH


NASA/JSC plans to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the following Commercial item/services: The Orbital Debris Program Office (ODPO) at the National Aeronautical Space Administration Johnson Space Center (NASA/JSC), in Houston, TX, in collaboration with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Detachment 15 on Maui, Hawaii, wish to procure a Meter-Class Autonomous Telescope (MCAT) to be installed on the island of Legan, in the Kwajalein Atoll, with an expected installation date of July 2010.

The telescope must meet specific performance criteria to qualify as an operationally effective tool for NASA’s and AFRL’s mission to characterize the orbital debris environment.

This procurement will include the optical tube assembly; mounting; telescope control system; component and system tests; factory integration; factory acceptance test; site integration; and site acceptance test.

Characterization of the earth orbital object population is essential to the fulfillment of NASA’s mandate to promote civilian uses of the space environment. The characterization involves generating a distribution function that primarily describes the number of objects of a given size, material type, physical shape, and orbital regime. Via a network of radar and optical sensors, the orbital population is continually surveyed and a catalog of larger objects (>10 cm diameter) is maintained by the Department of Defense. The completeness of this “correlated target” (CT) catalog [uncataloged constituents are labeled “uncorrelated targets” or (UCTs)] is limited both by the sensitivity of the assets employed and their geographic distribution. Most assets are at higher latitudes (>30* N), which yields a paucity of low-inclination Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) target observations. Limited sensitivity means geosynchronous (GEO) observations are also restricted to brighter targets.

MCAT will employ a NASA supplied Charge Coupled Device (CCD) camera to be used as the primary detector. This backside illuminated, 4Kx4K, 15um pixel, 4-port camera is capable of both rapid framing for LEO acquisitions and low noise time exposures for GEO work.

MCAT will be equipped with a Telescope Control System (TCS) incorporating both basic functionality and an open interface which allows for end user development of more sophisticated command and control. The base TCS will enable traditional pointing and tracking of both astronomical objects and CTs via supplied position and rate parameters. It will also operate MCAT autonomously by accommodating task lists containing targets and/or search strategies for a night’s observations. Ultimately, UCT stare and chase capability will be developed by NASA to further enhance MCAT productivity.

The following are minimum performance requirements needed to meet NASA’s goals (1) to detect 10 cm targets at GEO in 5 second exposures, (2) to track LEO targets at an altitude of 200km, and (3) to create a survey fence with an adequate field of view and enough dwell time in the field for assessment and re-acquisition further along the track.

The Field-of-View (FOV) needs to have a minimum width of 0.65* (0.92* diagonal).

Utilizing the NASA supplied CCD detector, the telescope shall reach 21.5th V-band magnitude in 5 seconds with a 20.5th mag/arcsec2 V-band sky brightness at a SNR of 2 magnitudes above background. This corresponds to a 10-cm detection diameter at GEO (36,000 km) for a specular sphere with a 0.10 albedo. A minimum 1.25m clear aperture is thus required.

The telescope also has a requirement for an Equatorial Mount with: high speed tracking to 2.2 deg/sec @ <0.05% rate accuracy, sidereal tracking @ <0.2 arcsec Root Mean Square (RMS) jitter, >4.0 deg/sec slewing, >10 deg/sec2 acceleration, direct encoded (modeled) pointing repeatable and stable to <3 arcsec RMS, and a maximum allowable elevation obscuration of 10.5* @ 180* azimuth (allows 200 km, 0* inclination LEOs to be observed due South) and <25* @ 0* (North) azimuth.

All hardware components of the MCAT must perform in an environment with these attributes: nominal temperature 70oF to 90oF, extremes of 60oF to 100oF, nominal operation up to 17 knot wind, 70-90% relative humidity, sea-level; occasional salt mist, observatory enclosure maximum 20′ diameter.

The anticipated release date of RFP is on or about September 22, 2008, with an anticipated proposal due date on or about October 6, 2008.

All responsible sources may submit a proposal which shall be considered by the agency.

An ombudsman has been appointed. See NASA Specific Note “B”.

The solicitation and any documents related to this procurement will be available over the Internet. These documents will reside on a World-Wide Web (WWW) server, which may be accessed using a WWW browser application. The Internet site, or URL, for the NASA/JSC Business Opportunities page is

Prospective offerors shall notify this office of their intent to submit an offer. It is the offeror’s responsibility to monitor the Internet site for the release of the solicitation and amendments (if any). Potential offerors will be responsible for downloading their own copy of the solicitation and amendments (if any). Any referenced notes may be viewed at the following URLs linked below.

All technical questions must be submitted in writing (e-mail or FAX) to Edwin Barker (JSC-KX) not later than September 18, 2008. Telephone questions will not be accepted.

Point of Contact

Name: Katherine L Eakle
Title: Contract Specialist
Phone: 281-244-6708
Fax: 281-244-5331

Name: Ann E. Bronson
Title: Contracting Officer
Phone: 281-483-9889
Fax: 281-244-5331

SpaceRef staff editor.