NASA contract fuels AppNet shares

Shares of the Internet services firm soar 20 percent after NASA awards the firm a $5.6 million contract to develop a way for scientists to monitor and analyze spacecraft via the Web.

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Shares of Internet services firm AppNet today soared 20 percent after the firm won a $5.6 million contract with NASA that will make it possible for scientists to monitor and analyze satellites and spacecraft via the Web.

In afternoon trading, AppNet saw its shares advanced 9.19 points to 55, jumping 20 percent.

Under the deal with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), the firm will develop new software and products to give flight operators and principal investigators the option of using laptops and home-based desktops to monitor and assess all forms of spacecraft. Currently, the Bethesda, Maryland-based firm said most GSFC workers are using high-end workstations that confine them to the work area for long hours.

"Through new technologies we're developing, anywhere a Flight Operator happens to be will become a command-and-control center,"NASA programs director for AppNet David Fout said in a statement. "Whether they're at home or just down the hall at Goddard, they will be able to instantly analyze and critically adjust even the most complex missions."

AppNet competes in the services and consulting industry among a rapidly growing pool of upstarts that includes Viant, Scient, Sapient, and Proxicom, which have all gained positive attention from Wall Street in recent weeks as more companies look to do business utilizing the Internet.

AppNet will develop software to create what the firm is calling "intelligent" spacecraft, which will be able to detect and self-correct problems and malfunctions. For example, an intelligent spacecraft will be able to prevent itself from veering off orbit or overheating from overexposure to the sun.

In major crisis situations, the spacecraft will also be able to page NASA personnel, who would then evaluate and correct malfunctions from their mobile, Web-based command centers, AppNet said.