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Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

Defense Companies Battle Over Lucrative New Satellite Program

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By KATHERINE SHRADER
Associated Press Writer

The door is closing on Boeing Co.'s last chance to win back a major slice of work on costly spy satellites that is late, over-budget and tinged by parochial politics.

Satellite programs take years to develop and cost at least several billion dollars each, making them among the most expensive government purchases that lack public oversight.

Industry experts, congressional aides and intelligence veterans agree that Boeing hurt itself by overpromising on a multibillion-dollar plan to build a constellation of top-secret satellites that were smaller, cheaper and more functional than its competition.

In September, the national intelligence director decided to take the most complicated work away from Boeing, a newcomer to the photo-reconnaissance satellite business, and give it to Lockheed Martin Corp.

The question is whether Boeing's friends in Congress can find a way to weaken John Negroponte's decision in legislative maneuvering before year's end.

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