Space Force Moves to Speedily Buy Constellation of Free-Flying Satellites

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The newest military branch is “continually looking to engage with industry to find ‘go faster’ solutions,” according to a division director.

The Space Force is in the market for six low-cost, free-flying satellites that could transmit and receive information across multiple frequency bands in a geostationary orbit—as soon as April 2022. 

“The government understands that the time we are requesting from development to delivery of this capability is limited, so leveraging minimal viable products may be required,” officials wrote in a recently published request for information.

Orbiting Earth at the same speed the planet is turning, the constellation would be overseen by the Space Force’s Space Systems Architect office. 

Via the RFI, officials invite potential contractors that could provide these capabilities to weigh in on their products’ technical elements, and whether it’s possible to meet the military branch’s timeline. Among other questions, they ask about what would be feasible in that short period, the impending satellite constellation’s command and control, and what government-furnished equipment would need to be provided. 

The notice’s response date was originally slated for Dec. 7, but was recently pushed out to Dec. 14. 

That date “was extended at the request of several industry partners,” Senior Materiel Leader and Director of the Spectrum Warfare Division in the Space Systems Command Col. Ryan Colburn told Nextgov in an email.

Colburn stopped short of confirming exactly what the potential six satellite constellation would be used by the Space Force for, but said “SSC’s Space Systems Architect Office is continually looking to engage with industry to find ‘go faster’ solutions and rapidly field partial or full military capabilities.”

“We evaluate these architectural solutions and non-traditional approaches to ensure we are capitalizing on commercial advancements to deliver operational utility,” he explained. “Our goal is to find ways to advance and leverage commercial solutions to generate next-generation military capabilities in an integrated and seamless way.”

Pointing to the Space Force’s 2020 SATCOM Vision, Colburn added that innovation pursuits span across the service’s various space segments, “are enabled by flexible terminals and flexible networking, and link together through a responsive SATCOM Command and Control structure and effective enterprise governance.” SSC’s acquisition teams also work directly with operators and system users, he noted, to provide recurring feedback to industry partners taking agile development approaches to deliver incremental capabilities through operational prototypes.

“Our prototyping strategy aims to increase technical maturity, aligns commercial products with military mission needs and looks to rapidly integrate them into our operational enterprise,” Colburn said.

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