U.S. Air Force awards commercial space-surveillance contract

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Updated 1:16 p.m. EDT on Oct. 31 to clarify that ExoAnalytic Solution was deemed capable of meeting Air Force requirements.   

WASHINGTON — The Air Force awarded a contract Oct. 19 to Applied Defense Solutions, Inc., to provide space situational awareness services (SSA), part of the Pentagon’s growing interest in private capabilities that could augment the military’s own SSA.

Tom Kubancik, Applied Defense Solutions’ vice president of advanced programs, said the Columbia, Maryland-based company will work with teammates Lockheed Martin, Pacific Defense Solutions  of Maui, Hawaii, and Kratos RT Logic of Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The companies will bring commercially sourced space situational awareness data into the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center, or JICSpOC, at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs to support experiments, exercises and contingency operations.

“ADS is acting as a data aggregator,” Kubancik said. “These are primarily common sense activities such as providing real time sensor status, scheduling and ordering without a man in the loop, automated delivery, and performance reporting.

“With the government stepping up in a big way to commercial data and services we see a great opportunity to help enable a healthy and competitive market landscape,” he added.

The contract is for one year, with two one-year options, Kubancik said. He declined to disclose the value of the award, which the Air Force had not posted to the Federal Business Opportunities website as of Oct. 31. When the Air Force began soliciting proposals nearly a year ago, it said the contact ultimately could be worth as much as $38.5 million.

The Air Force can move forward with the contract after the Government Accountability Office denied a protest from Analytical Graphics, Inc.

Pennsylvania-based AGI, one of the larger companies involved in SSA, protested the decision by the Air Force to earmark the contract for a small business set aside. But the GAO said the service properly evaluated whether small businesses could fulfill the requirements.

ADS will be providing “near real-time data of up to 200 objects … across all orbital regimes” and “shall detect, monitor, track, and provide a detailed time history for all observable maneuvers of a government-provided list of objects” using at least 10 sensors, half of which must be outside the continental U.S., according to the original  request for information the Air Force issued in November 2015.

The Air Force, which currently uses data from the U.S. Space Surveillance Network to inform satellite-collision warnings it issues to friends and foe alike, says data that is generated from commercial and civilian sources could more easily be shared with allied nations and the private sector.

The GAO’s decision notes that ADS and California-based ExoAnalytic Solutions were both deemed capable of meeting athe Air Force’s requirements for the work. The two companies were invited in July to submit formal proposals. Analytic Graphics, however, was excluded on the grounds that it did not qualify as a small business under the terms of the competition.

“We want to congratulate ADS and Lockheed Martin on their win,” said Doug Hendrix, ExoAnalytic Solutions’ chief executive officer.

“We were somewhat disappointed with the outcome, but ExoAnalytic Solutions is still very much committed to delivering the best suite of space situational awareness services and data to the commercial space community and the U.S. government,” Hendrix said.