Who‘s interested in upgrading software support? The US Space Force definitely is, as this week‘s USSF–centric news was dominated by the awarding of contracts, mostly based on software tech. Private enterprises this week bagged deals for surveillance, reconnaissance, and tracking support, missile warning systems and space–based wargaming infrastructure. And putting some of that software to good use will be the Joint Tactical Ground Station taken over by the SSC from the US Army. Find out which firms will be backing space security going forward in this week‘s Space Force news roundup.
USSF assumes control of Army‘s JTAGS mission
Last Sunday, October 1, saw the Space Force assume control of the US Army‘s Joint Tactical Ground Station (JTAGS) missile warning system, a move that had been officially planned since January of this year.
Space Delta 4 at Buckley Space Force Base will take over maintenance and operations of the missile–warning system in the interim until the 5th Space Warning Squadron is stood up by Space Operations Command (SpOC). After several international expansions in 2022 and 2023, the USSF may now include among its reach JTAGS‘s four forward–station detachments in Italy and Qatar as well as those in Japan and South Korea.
In its effort to consolidate space defense resources, all military satellite communications capabilities are under auspices of the USSF. This latest transfer follows the USSF taking up the Naval Satellite Operations Center and the Army‘s SATCOM mission last year.
Said SpOC commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting upon announcing the transfer: “I cannot emphasize enough my appreciation for the exceptional teamwork displayed by the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command during this mission transfer. Now, it is our responsibility to uphold the same level of mission accomplishment with JTAGS as a fully integrated component of our broader missile warning mission.” Sources: Air & Space Forces magazine, Space Force official website.
Booz Allen Hamilton wins expansive 7–year, $630 million contract
Representatives of Booz Allen Hamilton announced on Wednesday, October 4, that the company had been awarded a seven–year, $630 million contract with the USSF in support of Space Systems Command (SSC) efforts to engineer resilient space–sensing capabilities.
The wide–ranging contract calls for Booz Allen Hamilton to provide digital engineering, software development, cybersecurity and AI support to programs across the USSF‘s surveillance, reconnaissance, and tracking portfolio as well as to the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program. The company will integrate its next–generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) program to upgrade missile–warning and –tracking systems.
According to company PR, “This contract will leverage Booz Allen‘s capabilities and mission expertise in digital engineering, mission integration, agile software development, cybersecurity, change management, AI, and machine learning (ML) to help the Space Force achieve its vision for a Digital Service.”
Booz Allen Hamilton vice president Eric Hoffman stated in an official announcement that “This partnership reaffirms Booz Allen‘s position as a leader in building and delivering world–class, mission–critical systems engineering, cyber architecture, and remote sensing capabilities to sustain U.S. space superiority.” Sources: C4ISRnet, Booz Allen Hamilton PR.
LMI wins $98 million contract for wargaming technology
The Logistics Management Institute (LMI) was this week awarded a five–year, $98 million indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 3 contract by the US Air Force, per USAF and LMI representatives.
The contract calls for LMI to provide its Rapid Analysis and Prototyping Toolkit for Resiliency (RAPTR) modeling–and–simulation software technology in support of the USSF‘s Space Warfighting Analysis Center (SWAC) and the Space Security and Defense Program (SSDP).
“The future of U.S. dominance in an increasingly contested space domain relies on the effectiveness of our tools and the readiness of our forces,” stated Dr. Mark Eddings, an LMI senior VP. “LMI is committed to playing a pivotal role in that success by equipping warfighters with the solutions they need to understand the battlefield and make key decisions with confidence, speed, and clarity.”
The SBIR Phase 3 contract award is something of an extension of the Phase 1 and Phase 2 contracts awarded to the Colorado Springs–based Synaptech, which had created and developed RAPTR before its acquisition by LMI in December 2022. Sources: Space News, LMI PR.
Participants in Hyperspace Challenge 2023 announced
On Thursday, October 5, six companies from four countries were announced as participants in the business–accelerator Hyperspace Challenge for the 2023 version of the program.
The Hyperspace Challenge is run by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and CNM Ingenuity (a Central New Mexico Community College–based non–profit) in conjunction with the USSF‘s Space Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO).
Participants in the program include Phase Four (of Hawthorne, California); TRL11 (Irvine, California); Lexset.ai (Brooklyn, NY); Dawn Aerospace (Delft, Netherlands); Magdrive of the Harwell Innovation Campus (Oxford, England); and High Earth Orbit Robotics (Haymarket, Australia).
Per Hyperspace Challenge directives, goals for the hybrid virtual/live program include:
- Improving space visibility and awareness using threat and hazard awareness capabilities that can quickly and accurately detect and prioritize threats either from the ground or space;
- Advancing space analysis and vehicle autonomy using artificial intelligence, machine learning, and/or autonomous technologies that reduce ground–based vehicle operator workload, inform intelligent vehicle response decisions, and decrease vehicle response time; and
- Increasing space vehicle lifespan and maneuverability using advanced propulsion, refueling capabilities, and/or other fuel conservation innovations that allow space assets to maneuver freely without future negative consequences.
“Solving today’s — and tomorrow’s — greatest space challenges not only requires fast action but also necessitates that we push the limits of creativity,” stated Space RCO communications manager Matthew Fetrow upon announcing the participants. “We know that a diversity of perspectives and ideas propels innovation. So we have high expectations that this cohort will arrive at solutions that would be unimaginable without their wide range of experience and specialties.”
In this fifth year of the program, the invited companies will participate in virtual meetings throughout October and ultimately in an onsite event to be held at the Q–Station in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on November 1 and 2. Sources: Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) PR, Investors Observer.
Solicitations for NSSL Phase 3 launch providers released
Wednesday, October 4, saw the release of two new solicitations for contracts as part of National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Phase 3; the contractors will provide launch services during the 2025–2034 period.
The Lane 1 solicitation is open to launch providers of all sizes and includes up to 30 lower–risk low Earth orbit (LEO) missions spread over the aforementioned 10–year span.
Heavy–lift launch providers are required for the Lane 2 solicitation. These providers much be certified by the USSF for setting payloads into nine “reference orbits.” The top two bidders will split a total of approximately 42 missions from 2025 to 2029, with a third bidder receiving a maximum of seven Lane 2 missions beginning in fiscal year 2026. All contract winners may receive up to $100 million per year.
As all NSSL Phase 2 contracts were won by United Launch Alliance (ULA) and SpaceX, this week‘s solicitations represent the USSF‘s commitment to diversifying its partnerships with private enterprises.
Current plans for awarding Lane 2 contracts call for Blue Origin to join ULA and SpaceX in taking on heavy–payload missions. As Col. Douglas Pentecost, Space Systems Command (SSC) deputy program manager of national security launch, explained in part in a follow–up statement, Lane 2 contracts will be awarded to the “best value, next–best value, and third–best value launch service providers who meet all NSSL orbits and unique mission capabilities.”
However, the solicitation itself notes that “If the government determines there are less than three awardable offerors, the government may award less than three contracts.”
“The final RFP affirms the inclusion of a third Lane 2 provider, and annual on–ramping opportunities in Lane 1,” said Pentecost. “[These provisions will] strengthen the industrial base and increase the availability of reliable space launches for NSSL programs in a constrained market.”
Further, by the end of Phase 3, Pentecost stated the Space Force “will have at least three providers fully capable of meeting all NSSL requirements, as well as a full complement of launch service providers using systems designed for more risk–tolerant space vehicles launching to traditionally commercial orbits.”
“This transformative strategy ensures our ability to secure our nation‘s interests by creating a more resilient space architecture through proliferation, disaggregation, and orbital diversity.”