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ISRO, Raytheon major deal in pipeline

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is in the final stages of signing a major contract with a US company, Raytheon, it was announced at the Indo-US Space meet in Bangalore on Wednesday.

When signed in the next few days, the company will help ISRO instal the system that will allow aircraft to use the constellation of GPS satellites of the US. Using special receivers, the GPS signals allow one to get a positional fix. But the signals must be augmented to provide the accuracy needed for aircraft navigation and landing.

ISRO in collaboration with the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has come up with a system to augment the signals from GPS satellites called “Gagan” (GPS aided geo-augmented navigation). It involves setting up ground-based GPS reference stations and a navigational payload on a geo-stationary satellite.

Gagan Project Director K N Suryanarayana Rao said that Raytheon, after getting the contract, would set up the entire ground systems and the mission control facility. Rao said the navigational payload was being developed by ISRO and would be put in a G-SAT satellite to be launched in 2006. After an experimental phase for a year, the payload will be operational by 2008.

Raytheon has built similar augmentation systems for US and Japan. Raytheon was one of the two companies that bid for the contract. French company Alcatel was the other contender.

A spokesman for Raytheon said it would be happy to be associated with India’s Gagan but added that discussions were on and they have not signed the contract.