A Request for Information (RFI) was
released to industry and a briefing was conducted in 1995. Comments from
industry helped to formulate more specific requirements and were incorporated
in the specification documents. These specifications were released for comment
again in 1996. Results from the RFIs formed a basis to conclude that all
requirements of the replacement system could be fulfilled with
non-developmental or modified commercial off-the-shelf equipment. However, no
current commercial or military radiosonde system meets the NWS requirements
without modification or replacement of certain components.
The acquisition strategy for this project is to separately
acquire the major components of the system, including:
||Generic ground-based Telemetry Receiving System
(an antenna and radio receiver)
||Radiosondes and associated proprietary signal
||Data processing computers (Pentium II computer,
or later, with Windows NT)
||Surface observing instruments (Wind,
||Balloon inflation and launch shelters
The software for the
data processing computers is being developed by the NWS, with third-party
contracting support. This software and the data processing computers will be
implemented in advance of the new radiosondes and telemetry systems. The new
workstations will be interfaced to the existing telemetry system through an
interim version of the signal processing systems.
The strategy will allow maximum competition between
specific types of vendors, and seek the best overall system at the lowest cost.
This strategy also offers flexibility for timing contract awards to match the
approved budget levels.
This strategy presents a risk since NWS is responsible for
the compatibility of these units. This risk is considered low. NWS will develop
detailed interface control documents to define how the components are to be
connected and what data will be transferred. Prototype units will be used to
test, operate, and validate the interfaces before the systems are mass
produced. The aim is to further reduce development risk by seeking the award of
contracts to two vendors for prototype telemetry systems, followed by
Government testing prior to awarding a single production contract.
Procuring a generic ground-based telemetry system provides
the best method for cost avoidance. NWS plans to establish a Qualified Products
List (QPL) for radiosondes to facilitate frequent competition for radiosonde
supply contracts. Implementation of a new radiosonde will not require
replacement or modification of the ground-based telemetry system. This approach
will allow for future cost reductions as the cost of the current technology is
reduced. Radiosonde performance will be improved through availability of newer
NWS has maintained the ability to use multiple radiosonde
designs. This has led to strong competition between vendors, and resulted in
lower costs. Subject to the availability of funding, the current NWS practice
of procuring radiosondes from two or more vendors (major and minor suppliers
based on cost) will be continued to ensure availability of expendable items to
field sites. This approach supports the existence of more than one radiosonde
vendor to promote competition in future acquisitions, to the extent
No single radio frequency band can be used at all NWS
locations. Therefore, the replacement system will (on a site-specific basis)
use either the 401-406 MHz or 1675-1690 MHz frequency bands. This may be
accomplished by purchasing separate systems to optimize the application of
commercially available equipment.
The acquisition process to be used in this project follows
the model of the Acquisition Concept of Operations (CONOPS).
Information on this model can be found in the Department of Commerce's
Home Page. The project team will speed the distribution of
information to prospective vendors and other interested parties by posting the
Project Agreement, pre-solicitation notices, and other appropriate acquisition
related documents on a World Wide Web home page. Most communications will be
conducted via electronic means. The intent is to award fixed price contracts,
following a streamlined acquisition process. The acquisition process will be
expedited to the extent feasible through use of face-to-face meetings with
vendors, oral presentations, and other appropriate procedures.