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Countdown: The Air Force says it isn’t certain at the moment what the projected date is for the first launch of a Transformational Satellite Communications spacecraft. Around this time last year, as USAF presented its Fiscal 2008 spending proposal, the service anticipated the first launch would be in Fiscal 2016. However, with the release of its 2009 budget request on Feb. 4, the Air Force says it is now in the midst of re-examining the program and crafting a new approach. “The bottom line is we just don't know,” USAF spokeswoman Maj. Monica Bland told the Daily Report when asked about the first launch. “The Department of Defense is reassessing the optimal strategy for satisfying future satellite communication requirements in light of economic realities, program interrelationships, and user demand for these services,” she said. “The Department remains committed to delivering the transformational communications capabilities envisioned for TSAT. However, until this assessment is complete, the long-term TSAT program schedule remains to be determined.” That said, award of the TSAT space segment contract either to Boeing or Lockheed Martin is still expected around May, a USAF budget official said on Feb. 1. USAF envisions a five-satellite constellation with an additional satellite as a spare. Already Lockheed Martin is developing the ground segment associated with TSAT. The Air Force would like to spend $843 million in Fiscal 2009 to continue TSAT development. The program is pegged to receive $985 million in Fiscal 2010, $1.2 billion in Fiscal 2011, $1.5 billion in Fiscal 2012 and $1.8 billion in Fiscal 13, according to Air Force budget materials. Congressional defense authorizers cut $150 million from the original TSAT request in Fiscal 2008. In the prior fiscal year, the program was gutted as well.